Wine for Normal People

By Wine for Normal People

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Subscribers: 495
Reviews: 3


 May 24, 2022

A Podcast Republic user
 Jan 20, 2021

winelawn
 Aug 29, 2020
Best wine podcast out there. Great for newbies to enthusiasts.

Description

A podcast for people who like wine but not the snobbery that goes with it. We talk about wine in a fun, straightforward, normal way to get you excited about it and help you drink better, more interesting stuff. The Wine For Normal People book is available on Amazon! Back catalog available at http://winefornormalpeople.libsyn.com.

Episode Date
Ep 436: Wine Faults -- what are they, how to spot them, and what to do about them
52:07

Wine is a product of nature, human intervention, chemistry, and it’s subject to many outside influences – storage, transport, handling – that can do a number on what’s inside the bottle. In this episode, we cover the main things that could go wrong with wine, how they got there, and what to do about it (where possible)!

Photo: Pixabay

Shout out to Jamie Goode, the outstanding scientist and wine writer who makes so many complex science concepts so easy to understand. Here is the link to his book, “The Science of Wine from Vine to Glass,”* from which some of the reference materials for the pod were taken. Also to Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia,” * who (always with the humor of Tom Stevenson) brings up a number of very real faults that a lot of the mainstream wine press forget to mention (sauerkraut, anyone?). Other sources are below!

 

Here are the show notes:

We start with defining what a flaw is in a wine, versus a taint, as defined by Jamie Goode. Then we talk about just plain old sucky wine.

Flaw v Taint:

  • Flaw is endemic to the wine, it happened in winemaking or vineyard
  • Taint is from outside winemaking, like from packaging or from the winery
  • We discuss the Japanese concept that talks about how small flaws can accentuate beauty (it is called Wabi-Sabi, the art of imperfection). Not all technical flaws are bad!

 

 

NOT FLAWS: Next we tackle things that need to be dealt with, but aren’t flaws or taints:

  1. Sediment:
    • What is it? Tannin chains combining and falling out of solution. Looks like your coffee filter threw up or there are brown flakes in the wine.
    • What do you do? Decant, get a filter


Sediment on a glass from Canva Images

  1. Cork floating in your wine:
    • What is it? User error or an old cork. If you break the cork when you take it out, it may drop some flakes into the wine. If it’s an old cork, this is even more likely!
    • What do you do? Fish it out with you finger, a spoon, or get a filter



  1. Film/oily looking stuff on the surface:
    • What is it? Most likely it’s dishwashing soap residue from either glasses or decanter
    • What do you do? Clean your glasses of the residue, send the glass back if you’re in a restaurant. At home, warm water is often good enough to clean wine glasses as long as you have a good brush

 

  1. Bubblegum, pear drop, nail-polish like aromas:
    • What is it? These aromas come from carbonic maceration, a red winemaking technique where the winemaker ferments the grapes with no oxygen or yeast. Instead they use carbon dioxide to promote the conversion of sugar and malic acid to alcohol. Byproducts of this process are these aromas, and more to boot. Overly cool fermentations can also cause these types of aromas.
    • What do you do? If you hate this, chuck the bottle or give it away and remember you don’t like wines made with carbonic maceration. Never buy Beaujolais Nouveau!



  1. Tartrate crystals:
    • What is it? Crystals appear either on the side of the cork that was in contact with the wine or, often, at the bottom of the glass in white wines. Tartaric acid was not fined, filtered or stabilized out so tartaric acid crystals formed and the wine cleaned itself up naturally!
    • What do you do? Dare I say it again? Get a filter and get them out if they are in your wine. If they are on the cork, admire how pretty they are and enjoy the wine.



  1. Earthiness, green pepper notes:
    • What is it? Just normal wine flavors. The earthiness could be from terroir or it could be the grape. Green pepper is from a compound called methoxypyrazine that is common in Cabernet Sauvignon and its parents, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc
    • What do you do? If you love it, drink wines with those profiles. If not, there are plenty of wines without these characteristics



Before getting into the major faults, I discuss one that is on the line:

  • Cloudy/Hazy wine: If it’s not sediment causing the problem, it could be protein. It may settle out or it may just be part of the wine. Natural wines and unfiltered wines have haze often. Just proceed with caution if you see it. It could be fine or indicate a flaw to come.

 

 

Then we hit the hard-core flaws

 

1. Cork taint

  • What is it? It comes across as musty, wet dog, wet wool, cardboard or, at lower levels, as a wine with acidity and bitterness but no fruit flavor. It is caused by a molecule called TCA, which lives in the pockets of corks but also barrels, cardboard, wood cases, and corks (so yes, screw cap wines can have taint!)

 

  • What do you do? About 1-3 bottles in 100 have TCA taint, since cork is better chosen and sanitized now. People also use cork alternatives – plastic corks, screw caps, etc, but event those aren’t foolproof. If you get a corked wine, return it. There’s no fixing it (although occasionally if the wine is just musty, a good swirl and some time will bring it back)

 

Photo: Pexels 

 

2. Oxidation

  • What is it? When too much oxygen enters the wine in production, bottling, or storage (the cork or screw cap wasn’t affixed properly), the wine can be exposed to too much oxygen. Oxygen is important to making a wine taste great when it’s in your glass but if it has too much oxygen before you are ready to drink it, it can make white wines a little brown/tawny, reds a little orange/brown. They will have Sherry-like notes, which shouldn’t be there and they will acquire nutty, smelly caramel notes in reds or, if it occurs with Volatile Acidity – vinegar notes. Oxidized wine can also be flat in flavor and aroma

 

  • What do you do? If it tastes ok to you, drink it! It won’t get better so if you hate it and it’s oxidized, bring it back

 

 

 

3. Volatile acidity (VA)

  • What is it? When acetic acid or lactic bacteria is present on the grapes or in the winemaking and has these substances have sufficient oxygen to grow, the wine will taste like vinegar, or nail polish remover. At low levels, VA can present savory and sweet notes that taste good, but at high levels the wine is undrinkable.

  • What do you do? Bring it back for an exchange or refund

 

 

5. Reduction/sulfur issues

  • What is it? If you make wine in a reductive fashion – with very little oxygen and utilize too much sulfur, things can go wrong. Yeast make volatile sulfur compounds and things go bad quickly. Hopefully the winemaker catches it before bottling. If not, your wine will smell like burnt rubber, skunk, onion, garlic, rotten eggs, and smelly drains. These are ethyl mercaptans and they are so gross.

 

  • What do you do? If any of the above listed smells are in your wine, return it. There is one related thing, however, that may be ok: the smell of matchstick or flint. You may find those aromas in wines that have been made in a reductive fashion. If you swirl or aerate the wine, it will blow off. If your wine has a struck match aroma, rather than a burnt one, give it a few minutes before you issue a verdict and return it.

 


Reductive wines can smell like skunk!  Photo: Pixabay

 

5. Maderized wine

  • What is it? The wine has been cooked from poor storage or transport. Often these wines are also oxidized (bonus!). They taste like stewed fruit, burnt caramel, and jam. If you look at cork you may see wine leaking out, and when you remove the cork, there is often wine up and down the sides

 

  • What do you do? The wine is toast. You can’t save it, so return it.

 

 

6. Bubbles in a still wine:

  • What is it? Carbon dioxide has infiltrated the wine. It could be added for texture and style fizz like in Vinho Verde, some Austrian and German wines. OR, and this is the flaw, the wine was bottles with too much residual sugar after fermentation, and yeast were still alive. That fizz is an unplanned secondary fermentation happening in the bottle: re-fermentation has started

 

  • What do you do? If it’s intentional, it’s great. You can swirl to get the bubbles out and that sometimes works if you don’t like seeing bubbles (or you can just make peace with them)! If it’s frothy from secondary fermentation – it’s spoiled, bring it back to the shop.

 

 

 

7. Lightstrike

  • What is it? Ultraviolet (UV) and blue rays from artificial lights and the sun break up amino acids in wine and cause it to stink like cabbage, cauliflower, farmyard/poo skunk, and cardboard. This fault happens most often with whites and wine in clear bottles. According to San Francisco retailer J.J. Buckley, clear bottles block only 10% of light, amber bottles block 90% of light, and green bottles block 50% of light. That means whites and rosés in clear bottles are especially susceptible.

 

  • What do you do? The bottle is ruined, return it

Cabbage smelling wine is often from Lightstrike
Photo: Pixabay

  

8. Brettanomyces:

  • What is it? Metabolites produced by yeast called Brettanomyces bruxellensis – (shortened to brett in wine parlance), wait around until AFTER fermentation, then they consume the residual sugar saccharomyces cerevisiae (normal yeast) have left. The byproducts are flavor chemicals that can lead to manure, horse saddle, band aid, medicinal, and metallic notes. This happens mostly in red wines, as white wines have acidity to protect them.

 

  • What do you do? How you view the wine is really based on taste. Flavors vary based on the strain of brett, and the level of it in the wine. At low levels it adds gaminess, earthiness, spice, and savory notes to the wine. It can be hard to pinpoint in a wine. If you like these types of flavors, you likely enjoy brett. If not, stick with more New World wines from larger wineries, as they really try to eliminate all traces of the metabolite!

 

 

9. Mousy

  • What is it? In wines without sulfite protection, mainly natural wines these days, the wine has a few molecules that smell like a mouse or mouse pee. The wine can seem fine when you open it but then the aroma and flavor can appear as the wine is in the glass. Often it just stinks right from the get-go

 

  • What do you do? Sensitivity varies. Some people hate it, some are ok with it. Some can really detect it, others don’t notice it. Again, it’s down to personal choice whether or not you return the wine for the flaw or accept and like it.

 

10. Smoke taint

Fires in California have caused smoke taint. Photo: Unsplash

 

  • What is it? A direct result of nearby wildfires. According to Australian research, grapes are most susceptible to smoke, ash, ashtray, singed, and cured meat notes if fires are near the grapes from the period after veraison (when grapes change color, the last stage of ripening) through harvest. Flavor compounds permeate the skins, especially and the result is red wines that are nearly impossible to save. Whites from wildfire vintages are usually ok, as there is no skin contact necessary and the pulp is protected by the skins, but red wines can’t be fixed without affecting wine quality, for now.

 

  • What do you do? For now, there is no solution to smoke taint. If you see a wine is from a vintage and an area that had wildfires, caveat emptor. Some wineries will release a wine even if it’s like choking on an ashtray. Better to stick with whites from the area, if you can.

 

 _______________________________

Other stuff not always on the taint list!

 

Soapiness: Happens when acids produced by yeast are like salts: Caprylic acid salt (decanoic acid), and leave a soapy taste especially in white wines. They smell like soap but are fruitier. This note is common in high-alcohol wines. (Source: the "Le Nez Du Vin" wine faults kit and Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia). Like everything, a small amount is tolerable, a larger amount is a fault (and of course, make sure that soapiness isn’t from actual soap, as previously mentioned)

Soapiness is a fault in a wine! 

 

Cheese: If it’s subtle or in an old Riesling, cheese notes are usually good and integrate with the wine’s flavors. If it’s more like stinky cheese, it’s from ethyl butryrate and the wine is done: Take it back

 

 

Geranium notes in sweet wines are from sorbic acid or the degradation of geraniol aromas. It is considered a flaw, as are the phenol off-flavors of Carnation notes. Whether or not you like the wine is a matter of taste, but in high concentrations, it is gross and a flaw.

 

Sauerkraut notes are a bridge too far beyond sour milk or sour cream and are from too much bacteria in the malolactic fermentation. Yuck! This is a definite return to the shop!

 

 

This is by no means a total and complete list, but we did the best we can and hopefully it will help you ID what is a flawed or tainted wine and what is just a wine that is poorly made and bad.

 

_______________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

 Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

 

*The books have affiliate links on which I earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Aug 02, 2022
Ep 435: Alternatives to a Favorite -- Pinot Noir
40:17

Patron Serl Z asked: What are wines other than Pinot Noir for those for whom that is the only red wine they will drink?

Photo: Pinot Noir grapes, Canva photos

Join the conversation: Become a Patron on Patreon


Pinot has so many different faces depending on where it’s grown – terroir is everything with the grape. But if we’re talking about medium-bodied, more acidic styles that are food-friendly, then this podcast answers that question!

 

Italy:

  • Schiava or Teroldego from Alto Adige

  • Bardolino or lighter styles of Valpolicella from Veneto

  • Nebbiolo from Piedmont, alternately Grignolino, a light, acidic wine

  • The reds of Mount Etna (Etna Rosso), Sicily

  • Frappato, Sicily

 

France:

  • Poulsard and Trousseau, the reds of the Jura region (specifically Arbois, which is often blended in with Pinot)

  • Gamay from Beaujolais – Beaujolais-Village or lighter to medium styles from the Crus of Saint-Amour, Régnié, and Fleurie

  • Reds from the Loire Valley. based on Cabernet Franc, especially St-Nicholas de Bourgeuil

  • Côtes du Rhône red and white (yes, this white is big enough to be a red alternative). If you can find a wine with Cinsault in the blend (Rasteau and Cairanne Cru are good bets!), you’ll be in for a light style that will scratch your Pinot itch!

Photo: Jura vineyards in France, Canva photos

Austria:

  • Laurent, some Zweigelt (again, watch alcohol levels)

Greece: Agiogitiko and some Xinomavro

The US and Canada:

  • Finger Lakes or Virginia: Cabernet Franc in the US

  • Eastern Canada: Cabernet Franc

 

The Iberian Peninsula:

  • Spain: Mencía from Bierzo or Ribeira Sacra

  • Portugal: Blends of the Dão

Photo: Vineyards in Ribeira Sacra, home of great Mencía. Canva photos.

Most New World countries make excellent Pinot Noir but don’t have a lot of alternative lighter wines, given the climate. Also, as they were starting their industry, winemakers imported grapes they felt would be successful, and Pinot was the winner of the light to medium-bodied category!

 

So, those are my picks, but you may have others! Feel free to share.

 

_______________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

 Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Jul 26, 2022
Ep 434: The World's Foremost Authorities on Rosé -- Elizabeth Gabay, Master of Wine, & Ben Bernheim, Co-Author
01:13:52

Elizabeth (Liz) Gabay, Master of Wine, is the world's foremost expert on rosé and a big part of her career has been studying, writing about, and understanding rosé. Ben Bernheim, her son, is now learning from her wisdom and and is a specialist in his own right. The two of them have just completed the excellent book “Rosés of Southern France” (which is now available on Amazon for purchase.

Liz is largely responsible for shifting the tide on rosé and helping people to understand that this wine is its own serious category that deserves thought, study, and consideration. In addition to the new book, Liz is the author of “Rosé: Understanding the Pink Wine Revolution,” and she is also a contributor on rosé in Decanter, The Drinks Business, The Buyer, SevenFiftyDaily, Meiningers, and many more prestigious publications.

Photo: https://www.elizabethgabay.com/about/  

The wisdom these Liz and Ben have on the subject of rosé is vast, and they are so fun, engaging, and real, that they make it all so interesting and accessible. This is an incredible education on rosé and will enjoy every minute of listening to these fantastic humans.

Photo: Ben Bernheim, taken by me when we were partners in a Beaumes de Venise mini-class in the Rhone Valley 4/22

Here are the things we discuss in the show:

  • Liz talks about her background and how she got into wine. She discusses how, when she took the MW, it was a professional certification, and how it has changed dramatically over time. She discusses how she got into rosé, and how Ben got involved in it as well.

Then we get into the nuts and bolts of rosé

  • Liz and Ben define rosé (harder than you think!). We discuss he book’s intro and what rosé is really about:

“We love rosé. We love its diversity, its complexity, and the infinite combinations of terroir, grape variety, vintage variation and winemaking that we find around the world. Many people think we’re crazy. They see rosé as a pale pink lightly alcoholic swimming pool tipple that somehow tastes better if you’re wearing a bikini. That isn’t what this book is about. “

Photo credit: Canva

  • Liz and Ben tell us about rosé winegrowing:
    • Grapes that are commonly used(red AND white!)
    • The role of terroir in rosé
    • The picking decisions and harvest parameters that matter in making rosé
    • Climate change and how it is affecting grapes for rosé


  • We talk next about rosé winemaking
    • We discuss the various ways to make rosé – direct press, limited maceration and saignée
    • We talk about some of the key factors in rosé winemaking:
      • Time on the skin
      • Yeast strains
      • Co-fermenting with whites
      • Fermentation vessel (oak v. stainless)
      • Temperature control in fermentation
      • Malolactic fermentation vs. no MLF
      • Aging/storage vessel and time – oak, cement, glass, amphora, etc

Photo credit: Canva 

  • Liz and Ben tell us why rosé, can be ageworthy and why most isn’t. We also talk about lightstrike and why clear bottles are the worst thing for rosé.

 

  • We cover the wines of the southern Rhône -- Tavel, Luberon, Ventoux, the rosés of Provence and Bandol and the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon. We have an interesting conversation about Costieres di Nimes, which really drives home how certain regions can be outstanding but if they don’t send in samples to writers, or market their wines, they remain unknown.

 

  • Liz and Ben help us understand how to buy better rosé.
    • They provide some shortcuts for finding better wines – like looking for sub regions in Cotes de Provence such as Ste. Victoire and La Londe.
    • We talk about how using Google maps to see where the winery is located can help you get better wines (e.g., If it’s in a cool mountain area, it may be crisp, if it’s nearer the ocean the wine may be fatter).
    • They discuss how essential it is to find out about the producer, since often producers want you to see the name “Provence” and buy the bottle…if you poke around a bit you may get a better idea about what you are getting so it’s not a surprise or disappointment

 

  • Liz and Ben tell us about the trends in rosé – why it has become so popular, and what are great regions we should keep an eye on. Liz’s recommendations for countries/regions that have been making intresteing rosé (besides France!): Austria, Greece, Sicily (Etna especially), Spain (Clarete from Sigales, Rioja, Ribera del Duero, Navarra), Portugal (Douro, pink Port), Israel.

 

We end with a conversation on the future of rosé and what Ben and Liz hope for the category.

 

This is a fantastic conversation about a category of wine that is experiencing a big paradigm shift. Liz and Ben are some of the most normal, kindest, smartest people I’ve met in wine in a long, long while and the show is sprinkled with a ton of industry information – insider things that can help shed light on what goes on with producers, negociants, and writers.  I hope you enjoy and you are motivated to buy their wonderful book! Reach out to them at https://www.elizabethgabay.com/about/  

Photo credit: Canva

 

________________________

From our Sponsors...

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! You can get some awesome deals on rosé!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Jul 18, 2022
Ep 433: Quinta da Raza -- Terroir, Family, & the Complex White Wines of the Vinho Verde Region of Portugal
49:23

Vinho Verde, the DOC (Denomination of Controlled Origin) Region, has made wine since Roman times. This region is one of the largest DOCs in Europe but within its boundaries there are vast differences between the nine sub regions. In this show,  Mafalda Teixeira Coelho, co-owner of Quinta da Raza and Pedro Campos, winemaker clear up a lot of the misconceptions about Vinho Verde. We learn about the terroir of this old and complex region, the various subregions, and how serious, and sometimes ageworthy wine is being produced here.

 

Photo: Mafalda Teixeira Coelho, co-owner of Quinta da Raza and Pedro Campos, winemaker (c)Wine For Normal People 

In September 2021, I visited the region and I just loved the wines of Quinta da Raza, I adored Mafalda and Pedro, and I thought they were perfect representatives to tell us about their corner of this big region, in Basto, and what they are capable of making in this unique terroir.

 

Here’s what we discuss in the show:

  • The diversity of Vinho Verde, it’s 9 sub regions and how proximity to the sea, position in the mountains, and soil type make big differences in the grapes you can grow and the resulting wines.

Map: Vinho Verde Commission

 

  • Pedro tells us about the Basto subregion, where Quinta da Raza is located. It is inland, on granite, schist, and clay soils. The location is a bit more continental with warmer summers and cooler winters than places near the coast, meaning grapes can get fully ripe and quite flavorful.

 

  • To understand Vinho Verde, you must understand the nuance between the granite terroir v. the schist terroir. Pedro tells us what the differences are and why they matter.

 

  • Mafalda shares the history of the estate and how it was passed down to her husband Diogo, who she manages things with today.

Mafalda Teixeira Coelho, co-owner of Quinta da Raza and her daughters,
(c)Wine For Normal People 

  • Pedro tells us about the main grapes of the region: Azal, Alvarinho, Avesso, Arinto, Trajadura, and the reds Padeiro and Vinhão. He tells us about the various brands of Quinta da Raza
    • Dom Diogo is the traditional brand that is sold mainly in the Portuguese market
    • Quinta da Raza is a more international style, and where you’ll find those more serious whites like Alvarinho, Avesso, and Gouveio
    • Raza is the very traditional, fizzy Vinho Verde of Arinto, Trajadura, and Azal, with the Rosé made of Vinhão, Padeiro and Espadeiro
    • Nat their line of Pet Nat (Petillant Naturel), sparkling wine made in the ancestral method with a single fermentation happening in the bottle from which you drink it

 

  • We discuss some of the important techniques they use to get high quality wine – traditional things like hand harvesting grapes and foot treading in stone lagares, and then more modern things like using stainless steel tanks and modern winemaking techniques.

Hand harvest at Quinta da Raza (c)Wine For Normal People 

  • Pedro tells us Alvarinho and Avesso are good candidates for aging, with Gouveio as a possible third.

 

  • We finish the conversation by talking about Quinta da Raza’s commitment to sustainability and the bright future for the Vinho Verde region and for the winery.

 

Quinta da Raza’s wines are fantastic. Seek out the basic Raza, but try to find the single varietals, they are inexpensive and drink way above their price point!

 

________________________

From our Sponsors...

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Don't forget to go to the store page to see what wines I love with descriptions I have written. 

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Jul 12, 2022
Ep 432: Agroforestry -- An Answer to Wine's Biggest Environmental Challenges with Jean-Baptiste Cordonnier of Château Anthonic in Moulis-en-Médoc
57:15

Jean-Baptiste Cordonnier of Château Anthonic in the Moulis-en-Médoc appellation on the Left Bank of Bordeaux is revolutionizing the entire Médoc with a novel approach to farming and adapting to climate change: Agroforestry. This show talks about the practice and the unbelievable results that can be achieved by farming in this way. It will inspire hope that there is a future for viticulture, even in areas where there is great climate change.

 

Photo: Jean-Baptiste Cordonnier Château Anthonic

Château Anthonic is in the Moulis-en-Médoc appellation on the Left Bank of Bordeaux. It is owned and operated by Jean-Baptiste and Nathalie Cordonnier. They make very classically styled, delicious (and relatively low alcohol) red wine from mainly Merlot with Cabernet Sauvignon and some Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

Photo: (C) Wine for Normal People, Château Anthonic

Since 2016, Jean-Baptiste and his team have practiced agroforestry –trying to mimic the soils and conditions of the forest to enrich soil health and encourage the vines to return to a state where they are part of an eco-system, with fungi, trees, wildlife, and healthy micro-organisms. Using very specialized cover crops, they have managed to lower soil temperatures and keep sugar levels under control by practicing the tenets he discusses.

 

May people claim to do great things, but Jean-Baptise is the real deal. If there is anything that will inspire hope that human ingenuity and nature may help us out of bad times to come, this show is it.

 

Here are the topics we discussed:

 

  • Jean-Baptiste tells us about his very different educational background, which led him to tackle environmental issues in the way he does today. Forestry, not viticulture, was the foundation of his education (and we should all be grateful for that!)

 

  • We get a good background on Moulis-en-Médoc – the terroir, the diversity, and where Château Anthonic is located. We discuss the blue clay, which makes up 70% of his vineyard

Photo: (C) Wine for Normal People, Blue Clay Château Anthonic 

  • Then we get into the details of just how we have gotten into the predicament in farming that we have today. Jean-Baptiste explains the phases that humans have gone through to deplete the earth through farming (inadvertently and through a series of bad decisions). He addresses how “the new guest in the dance”, climate change has sped up the need for a solution.

Photo: (C) Wine for Normal People, Château Anthonic 

  • We get into the nuts and bolts of agroforestry and how hedges, trees, and grasses in the vineyard are the keys to bringing back fungi and mico-organisms that are vital to making the land healthier and, ultimately, to maintaining the style of Bordeaux that many of us love. He also addresses the economics of the vineyard, and how planting trees has actually given him 2% MORE yield in his vineyard, despite the trees taking out two rows per hectare.

 

 

  • Jean-Baptiste shares the results of his years of agroforestry practices: lower alcohol and more acidity in his grapes, less water stress, and more balanced wines. He is too modest to really brag, but he has trained first and second growth chateaux on the practices of agroforestry, as well as many other prestigious chateaux in the Médoc and beyond. Many are implementing his methods in their vineyards.

 

  • Jean-Baptiste leaves us with a message of hope – viticulture is not doomed, Bordeaux is a phoenix, and the rapidity with which change has come means the future is bright for this warming and changing climate, regardless of what nonsense naysayers may spout.

Photo: (C) Wine for Normal People, Château Anthonic 

 

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Jul 05, 2022
Ep 431: The Grape Mini-Series -- Sémillon
46:57

Sémillon used to be the most planted white grape in the world. From its native home in France to Australia, Chile, South Africa, Argentina, and beyond, it was planted en masse to pump out large quantities of flavorless bulk white wine. The problem was that Sémillon doesn’t cooperate when it’s forced to high yields. It loses acidity and it lacks flavor unlike some other grapes that can still muster some umph when over-cropped (Chenin blanc, Sauvignon blanc, Colombard, to name three).  For this reason, plantings were replaced and the grape became unpopular.

Photo: Sémillon, Bordeaux.com 

Today it is grown in limited quantities but two distinct areas– Sauternes/Barsac and Pessac-Leognan in Bordeaux and the Hunter Valley of Australia --  create wines that are incredibly specific and unique. Demand and fascination with these iconic wines means that cultivation of this grape is not doomed!

 

Here are the show notes:

The origins of the grape

  • Although we don’t know the parentage, we do know the grape is from southwestern France. It is likely from Bordeaux
  • Until the 1700s, producers were only using the grape in Sauternes (at this point it was already a sweet wine, as records from 1717-1736 at the local abbey show)
  • Later, it was found in St-Emilion, from which it derives its name. The name most likely comes from Selejun – the local pronunciation of Saint-Emilion

 

 

Sémillon in the vineyard

  • A thick-skinned grape, part of the reason it was so widely planted was that this feature makes Sémillon pretty resistant to molds and mildews (although, thankfully not botrytis). This feature of the grape helps make it easy to grow and it can be quite vigorous, which is why it was so used and abused in the past!
  • The grape buds later and ripens earlier than its blending partner, Sauvignon blanc, and this short growing window means it is not as susceptible to spring or autumn frosts
  • The grape is versatile on soil types – it can thrive on gravel, calcareous clay, sand, and other types making it incredibly adaptable
  • Fully ripe Sémillon will have big yellow to nearly copper colored berries
  • Low yields are best
    • Château d’Yquem, the most famous Sauternes producer in the world, allegedly makes one glass per vine. The rest of Sauternes yields about 24hl/ha, and lower quality regions yield 80 -100 hl/ha. Hunter Valley in Australia – 60 hl/ha

**M.C. Ice and I fully acknowledge that we have no idea what a hl/ha looks like but we use the numbers for comparison sake – ratios are still helpful, right? **


Photo: Australian Semillon, courtesy Wine Australia

  • Climate can vary enormously and the grape can still perform:
    • In Sauternes, special climate conditions must exist (we discuss later)
    • Top dry white areas of Graves and Pessac-Leognan have warmer sites for Sémillon, which allows it to get fully ripe, adding lushness to the blend with Sauvignon blanc
    • In Hunter valley, humidity with tropical storms are best! Because the area has strong cloud cover there is less direct sun so it slows photosynthesis, despite heat. The humid afternoons somehow help build acidity. The light, sandy soils that contain some loam and iron have good drainage, during rain

 

 

We discuss the growing regions for most of the remaining part of the show

France: Bordeaux

  • France grows more Sémillon than any other country and most of the plantings are in Bordeaux, specifically – Graves, Pessac-Leognan, and Sauternes
  • 50 or so years ago, half the production in Bordeaux was white, mostly from Semillon, which traditionally made up 4/5 of any white wine in the area, sweet or white, but now has taken a backseat to Sauvignon Blanc, which offers more acidity to the wine in a warming climate

 Photo: Bordeaux vineyard, Getty Images via Canva subscription

  Sauternes, Barsac

  • In Sauternes, Barsac (please see episode 369 for more info) and the sweet appellations of Cadillac, Ste Croix du Mont, Loupiac, and Cerons Sémillon is always partnered with Sauvignon blanc, which also receives botrytis well but maintains its acidity. Wines are hand harvested, with several passes through the vineyard to get the right level of botrytis, which can be patchy and can be grey rot if it developed poorly on the grapes
  • Botrytis is a fungus that affects the grapes right when the fruit forms. It concentrates sugar and creates honeyed, apricot, mango flavors with a viscous mouthfeel from the glycerol it produces. Alcohol levels range in the region -- the minimum in Sauternes is 13% but it can well over 20% ABV
  • For botrytis to form, a region needs foggy nights and early morning, followed by warm and sunny days. This is essential in the autumn, and is a very consistent weather pattern in the sweet wine regions of Bordeaux, which botrytized wine can be made nearly every year
  • These wines are aged for long periods in oak barrels
  • Some, like Chateau Climens in Barsac, are 100% Sémillon

 

Dry white appellations

  • In Graves and the lighter, sandier regions of Pessac-Leognan, Sémillon is often the biggest percentage of the blend. The best versions – Haut-Brion Blanc and La Mission Haut-Brion Blanc (different Châteaux, owned by the same group = confusing, I know) – are hundreds of dollars a bottle and often have Sémillon as the main component, but it’s vintage dependent
    • In Pessac-Leognan, 25% of blend must be Sauvignon Blanc, and the trend is to favor that grape over Sémillon both because it’s easier to grow, and because it has acidity. From good producers, these wines can age for decades
    • The grape can be in Côtes de Bordeaux blancs and in basic Bordeaux blanc from better producers
    • Sémillon adds fullness to the texture and when it is aged in oak (as is the case with Sauternes, Barsac and in Graves and Pessac-Leognan), it can have peach, mango, nuts, and toast flavors, which contrast well with Sauvignon blanc’s more “green” aromas. If Sémillon is not aged in oak, it can have citrus, grass, notes without much flavor. When it is fully ripe and aged in oak, it is fat in texture with lemon and tropical fruit and has lower acidity.

 

Other places in France Sémillon grows...

  • Southwest France has the sweet wine of Monbazillac (like Sauternes) and dry white of Bergerac
  • Provence and the Languedoc, but not of any quality

 

 

Australia

  • Makes the most distinctive dry white in Australia and was first planted in the Hunter Valley where it gained popularity for its ease to grow, high yields, and resistance to disease
  • It went from being the workhorse grape in the 1980s, to accounting for only 3.1% of the total Australian crush today
  • More than half of Australia’s Semillon comes from the bulk New South Wales region of Riverina

Hunter Valley in New South Wales

  • The warm, humid climate of the Hunter Valley isn’t conducive to most grapes but Semillon (no accent on the “e” in Australia!) changes from a grassy, lemony acidic wine into a dark yellow, nutty, honey and straw-scented viscous wine if grown and made under certain conditions
  • To achieve this, growers pick early, before the summer rains and the grapes have very high acidity. Alcohol levels are around 10-11% ABV, and most of the wine spends no time in oak for fermentation nor for aging – it is put in stainless, fermented cold, and bottled. Wines in their youth are like Sauvignon blanc – citrus, green herbs, and straw flavors persist, with high acidity. After 5-10 years of storage the wine darkens and tastes like honey, toasted, grilled nuts and seems like it has been in an oak barrel (hasn’t) – a total odd ball. Although the grapes can have some botrytis, this phenomenon is just a result of the rainy, tropical growing conditions
  • To learn more about Hunter Valley and the Semillon, listen to ep 309, with the amazing Connie Paur Griffiths of Tranquil Vale, an excellent small producer located there
  • Tyrells is the famous producer here (especially Vat 1 Semillon). Also Brokenwood, Silkman, Andrew Thomas

 


 Photo: Hunter Valley Vineyard, credit Wine Australia

 

Western Australia:

  • Margaret River: Popular for blends of Semillon and Sauvignon blanc
  • You will see Semillon-Sauvignon Blanc or Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon on the bottle, the first name indicates which grape dominates the blend
  • These wines can be made in a juicy, fruit style with no oak, or oak fermented and/or oak matured to last longer
  • Producers: Vasse Felix, Cullen, Cape Mentelle, Leeuwin

 

South Australia

  • Adelaide Hills: Wines are like white Bordeaux in that they are picked early and blended with Sauvignon Blanc to avoid oiliness, too much ripeness. They sometimes use oak, sometimes not. Charlotte Dalton is the big producer here.
  • Barossa: Sometimes makes varietal versions that show the purity of the grape, sometimes use big oak and can be toasty and Chardonnay-esque. Producers: Torbreck, Peter Lehmann, Henschke in Eden Valley
  • Clare Valley: Can be more refined than Barossa but still peachy with apple and citrus and fuller body. Oak influence is common. Producers: Mount Harrocks, Pauletts
  • Riverina: Is notorious for low quality bulk wine but a pocket of it develops botrytis easily and makes high quality sweet wines: McWilliams, De Bortoli

 

 

New Zealand has a small amount of Semillon in Marlborough, Hawkes Bay, and Gisbourne

 

South Africa

  • Semillon was once so important it was called “greengrape” because of its bring green foliage
  • By 1822, 93% of the vineyard land planted was Semillon. Then it was commonly just called “wine grape” but by the 1900s it began its sharp decline
  • It is grown now in Stellenbosch, Swartland, and Franschhoek. Some areas have older bush vines.
  • Producers like: Cederberg, Steenberg, Vergelegen , Mullineux are using more Semillon in blends with Sauvignon Blanc (some sweet, some dry versions)

 

United States

  California

  • Barely uses Semillon but vines that were imported in the 1880s to the Livermore Valley in northern California, were allegedly from Château d’Yquem
  • Vines that live in the Monte Rosso vineyard in Sonoma date from 1886 and can make excellent wines. Morgon is an example
  • Sierra Foothills: Some here, notably my friend Lorenzo Muslia of Andis makes the Bill Dillian Semillon that has great acidity but silkiness and hay, herb, and melon notes (for the podcast with Lorenzo click here)


Photo: Andis Wines

  Washington State

  • Big decline in plantings and they usually a blend with Sauvignon Blanc
  • Popular from Walla Walla producers: L’Ecole 41 – lemon curd, nut and toast notes with a pretty full body, Amavi (episode with Amavi here) – slightly more acidic and less full with more citrus and grass notes but still with a rich body

 

 

Others countries that use Sémilllon

  • Chile: Because of the Bordeaux link, has Semillon and usually uses it for blends or Sauternes-like sweet wines. Semillon used be 75% of white vines in Chile!
  • Argentina, Uruguay have some nice examples
  • Canada

 

 

Food Pairing Ideas

  • Sauternes/dessert styles: blue (Roquefort) cheese, foie gras, scallops, fruit based-dessert
  • Lighter styles: Oysters, shellfish, white fish or chicken dishes with citrus or herbal sauces or creamy sauces, salads, goat and sheep’s milk cheeses

_____________________________________________

Research Sources:

__________________________________________________________

____________________________________________________

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Jun 27, 2022
Ep 430: New Insights on the Médoc from a Recent Trip
39:32

After a recent trip to the Médoc (the left bank of Bordeaux), I came away with a whole new appreciation for the region. In this show, I share what I learned and my main takeaway is simple: when we are thinking about Médoc, never forget that there are real people behind the bottle you drink and they care what you think about the wine! It's a place of wonder, great modesty, kind people, and exceptional wine. 

Here is the list of SOME of the things I learned! 

  1. Bordeaux is not “over”, “done”, “hopeless” or “doomed” for wine and we need to stop talking about that possibility (me, included). Jean-Baptiste Cordonnier from Château Anthonic in Moulis, and his ideas around agroforestry is proof of that (the podcast with him is forthcoming). As wine lovers, we need to stop buying into the clickbait and know that the Bordeaux many of us know and love will remain. There are people addressing how to adjust to the environment.

 

  1. Real people live and work in the châteaux!
  • For many of the smaller or medium chateaux, homes have been passed down over generations. Although these people have generational wealth, the chateau are their homes and they run the business from these houses.
  • For Château owned by wealthy people or banks, the homes are more showpieces for the trade or public, but the people who head up the wineries are real people (and they are employees – like working there is their job – so they are regular, working people. Magali Guyon of Château La Cardonne and Anne Lanaour of Château Meyney – are outstanding, fun and very normal people who I thoroughly enjoyed hanging out with and could talk about kids, inflation, and culture with easily).



  1. There are quite a few families that moved to Bordeaux after Algerian gained its independence from France. You can read more about that time here. The way they were treated when they came back was not great and some of their families had been in Algeria for more than 100 years, so they missed their homeland. That said, the success many had in Bordeaux was a result of hard work and determination that still shows. Château d’Arsac and Château Fonreaud/Lestage are both owned by people who came from French Algeria and both owners are highly engaged

 

At Château d'Arsac, Phillippe Raoux started over after being raised in Algeria

 

  1. There are abandoned Châteaux in the Médoc – even in very nice places! People (generally from outside of France) either invested, thinking growing grapes was easy, or at one point had a family home but could no longer afford the upkeep so they have left the vineyards and the homes to nature.

 

 

  1. What is a technical director? The conductor of the Orchestra (or winery! A technical director is in charge of the vineyards and the cellar. They must know everything that is going on both worlds. There is a cellar master and a vineyard manager, but the technical director is in charge of final product, and must coordinate all parts of making the wine.

Magali Guyon, Technical Director at Château La Cardonne

 

  1. The Chateaux owners are frustrated by their image and they care what normal people think about their wines! They want us to connect with the wines and understand that there are people behind the wines. They are not always savvy with marketing, but they want you to feel welcome to come and visit! (it isn’t snooty, at least where I went but still make sure you wear nice clothes and make appointments ahead of time).

 

  1. Bordeaux is right near the BEACH! You could easily plan a trip to do wine and beach. Although no one ever discusses it, it’s something to think about. It’s worth visiting! There’s also a forest for hiking.

 

  1. The FOOD is amazing, especially the seafood. But the veggies are amazing too. Fresh foods, excellent preparation.

 

  1. Every appellation makes a fantastic wine that is unique. Terroir matters a lot and it varies greatly. There were 10 million year old fossils in the vineyard at Chateau st. Come in Saint-Estèphe, which used to be covered by the sea.

 

  1. Vintage variation is a real thing – the place has weather and I saw some of it in action.

 

Related podcasts:

Ep 354: A New Look At Bordeaux's Médoc -- with Château La Cardonne's Magali Guyon

 

Ep 389: Chateau Doyac and the Diversity of Terroir in the Haut-Medoc of Bordeaux

 

Ep 391: Édouard Miailhe - Dynamic leader of the Margaux AOC & 5th Generation Owner of Château Siran

 

Links: 

 

My visits:

Château Anthonic, AOC Moulis en Médoc
Jean-Baptiste Cordonnier

 

Château Siran, AOC Margaux.
With Edouard Miailhe, owner

Podcast:

 

Château d’Arsac, Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel, Margaux,
Philippe Raoux, owner.

 

 

Château Chasse Spleen, AOC Moulis en Médoc.
Jean-Pierre Foubet and Céline Villars Foubet, owners.

 

Château Fonréaud, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, Listrac-Médoc.
Jean and Marie-Hélène Chanfreau   

 

 

Château Meyney, AOC Saint-Estèphe
With Anne le Naour, Director

 

 

Château Livran, AOC Médoc
Edwige and Olivier Michon, owners.

 

Château La Cardonne, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, AOC Médoc.
With Magali Guyon, technical director

 

Château Phélan Ségur, AOC Saint-Estèphe
With Véronique Dausse, director

 

Château Mouton Rothschild, 1er Grand Cru Classé en 1855, Pauillac.

 

Château Lagrange, 3rd Grand Cru Classé en 1855.

Château de Côme, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur, AOC Saint-Estèphe
Guy Velge owner, José Bueno Director, and Maud Essertel commercial director.

 

Château Doyac, Cru Bourgeois Supérieur Haut-Médoc
Astrid and Max de Pourtalès, owners and Clémence their daughter.

 

Château Gadet Terrefort, Cru Artisan, AOC Médoc
Anaïs Bernard, owner

 

Thanks to Carole Vidal and Vins du Médoc for sponsoring my trip and for putting up with me for 5 days! 

 

____________________________________________________

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Jun 14, 2022
Ep 429: Marchesi di Barolo - Where Modern Barolo was Created
52:51

Although much bigger, more well-known, and a bit fancier than the people I usually speak with, I wanted to make an exception and have the family who owns Marchesi di Barolo on the show so they could explain how the modern style of Barolo was created by the winery. It's much more buttoned up, and less of the normal conversation style I usually do, but it's an essential bit of history that will help fill-in some gaps about Barolo!


Marchesi di Barolo in Barolo, photo from Marchesi di Barolo's Facebook page

There are a lot of historic wineries and a lot of people in wine claim to have been the first to create a wine or a technique. But this week, the Cantina that invented Barolo as we know it today - Marchesi di Barolo joins. In the mid- to late- 1800s the Marchesi di Barolo focused on the production of dry, ageworthy, complex Nebbiolo was created from a wine that Thomas Jeffereson described as:

“As silky as Madeira, as astringent as Bordeaux and as brisk as Champagne”

 

Thankfully for those of us who love Barolo, the Marchesi had a different style in mind and created the wine as we know it today.

 

The current owners, the Abbona family, purchased Marchesi di Barolo and today the 6th generation is taking over the winery. Valentina Abbona joins the show to talk about the history of Barolo as a wine, and her family’s long history in owning this storied place and making bottles that remain top examples of the wine created here.

 

Here are the notes:

  • Valentina tells us about what it was like in Barolo in the late 1700s and early 1800s from a wine and lifestyle perspective – the polyculture that existed, and the simple, country lifestyle people led.

 

  • Marchese Carlo Tancredi Falletti and his wife, Juliette, who was of French origin, figured out how to make Barolo a dry wine, consistently. Previously, as it sat in barrels that didn’t have temperature control or were placed outdoors, the fermentation did not complete before the weather got cold. The yeast froze and sugar stayed in the wine. When the juice re-commenced fermentation, carbon dioxide stayed in the wine – thus why Thomas Jefferson compared it to Champagne.

The Marquesa di Barolo - Giulia di Barolo, photo from the Wine Museum of Barolo

 

  • We learn about how the Marchesa Giulia (who changed her name from Juliette to the Italian version of the name), specifically, found interest in the Nebbiolo vine and how she realized her vision for what Nebbiolo could be/the wines it could make of dry wines (using her knowledge of French wines and connections to people who could help).

 

  • We discuss how the Marchesa used her contacts to the royal courts of Europe (Piedmont was under the Kingdom of Savoy of France at the time) to popularize the wine, even sending hundreds of barrels to the king in Torino to ensure he could drink the wine daily.

 

  • We then turn to Valentina’s family, the Abbonas, who have been making esteemed wine in Barolo since the late-1800s as well. When the opportunity to buy the Marchesi di Barolo occurred in 1929, Pietro Abbona, his brother, and his sisters bought the winery and began making small improvements.

Davide, Valentina, Ernesto, Anna Abbona, photo from Marchesi di Barolo's Facebook page

  • We discuss the Abbona’s tradition of making single vineyard wines since 1973 and a bit about their three properties -- Cannubi, Coste di Rose, and Sarmassa.

 

  • Valentina and I have a small debate about the MGA system, which smaller producers find challenging but that some bigger producers of the area, like Marchesi di Barolo, seem to like and find useful.

 

  • Valentina talks about some of the other properties the Marchesi di Barolo owns in its 430 acre (186 ha) all over the Langhe and how they manage the land.

 

  • After a brief conversation about how long Barolo can age (hint: forever!) we discuss climate change and the future of Barolo and Nebbiolo in light of the challenges the future may bring.

The MGA Barolos of the Marchesi di Barolo

 

If you are looking for an historic visit in Barolo, you can book a tour and tasting https://marchesibarolo.com !

____________________________________________________


 Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Don't forget to go to the store page to see what wines I love with descriptions I have written. 

 

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Jun 07, 2022
Ep 428: Laurent Delaunay of Maison Edouard Delaunay -- The Magnificent Story of a Family's Loss & Triumph in Burgundy
59:53


Catherine & Laurent Delaunay, photo from Badet Clément

Laurent Delaunay of Maison Edouard Delaunay in Bourgogne (Burgundy) as well as Badet Clément and under that many estates and DVP or Domaines et Vins de Propriété joins the show to discuss his amazing story of loss and triumph in Bourgogne (Burgundy).

 

Laurent’s family wine ties stretch back to 1771 in the Loire, but the Delaunay name was made as one of the historic great houses of Bourgogne. The domaine began in 1893 and by the 1920s, the wines of the Delaunay’s could be found in top restaurants in around France and beyond -- The Ritz in London, Raffles in Singapore – and in the prestigious travel companies of the time -- the French Line, the Orient Express, Wagons-Lits, Cunard, Air France. The Delaunays also distributed the wines for producers like Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and the Liger-Belair family (La Romanée), and helped create the Confrérie des Chevaliers du Tastevin in 1934.

But with many twists and turns, in 1989 the family lost control of the Domaine and Laurent Delaunay, fresh out of enology school, was forced to forge his own path with his enologist wife, Catherine. What the two managed to accomplish is mind-boggling and as you will hear, Laurent managed a feat in Burgundy few could.


This show is about Laurent but also some key facts about Burgundy – he is also the President of the BIVB, or the Bourgogne /Burgundy Wine Board. (Bureau Interprofessionnel des Vins de Bourgogne)

 

Here are the show notes:


Edouard Delaunay wines

  • We discuss the Edouard Delaunay wines, their young, award winning winemaker, Christophe Briotet, and some of the flagship wines at each level. We discuss Laurent’s relationship with Total Wine in the US (his wines are distributed elsewhere, so if you aren’t in the States you can still get them!)

Christophe Briotet, photo from Maison Edouard Delaunay

 

__________________________



I ask Laurent to switch to his role as the BIVB president: I ask a bunch of questions I've always had about Burgundy...I mean Bourgogne...

 

A fantastic show with one of the most modest, yet dynamic figures in French wine today! Go try Laurent’s wines of Edouard Delaunay—they are fantastic and he is a wonderful person!

 

____________________________________________________


 Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Don't forget to go to the store page to see what wines I love with descriptions I have written. 

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

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May 31, 2022
Ep 427: Some Things to Consider When Traveling to Piedmont (in Person or Through the Glass)
53:29

After a week-long trip to Piedmont, Italy with a group of 20 patrons, I give an update on the region and offer some ideas on how to explore the wines on the ground and through the glass.

View from La Morra

Tips and producers mentioned/that we visited or that I recommend visiting: 

1. To explore Nebbiolo, first hit Roero, then Barbaresco, and finally Barolo (first La Morra and Barolo, then Castiglione Falleto, Serralunga, and Monforte).

Roero producers: Matteo Correggia, Massucco

Barbaresco producers: Produttori del Barbaresco, Punset, Cascina delle Rose, Bruno Giacosa

Barolo producer: Marrone, Marchesi di Barolo

Marina Marcarino of Punset in Barbaresco

 

2. Barbera regions: Nizza, Barbera d'Alba, Barbera d'Asti, Barbera Monferrato

Nizza producer: Erede di Chiappone Armando

Nizza, at Erede di Chiappone Armando

 

3. Dolcetto regions: Dogliani, Ovada, Diano, Dolcetto d'Acqui, Dolcetto d'Alba, Dolcetto d'Asti

Diano producer: Abrigo Giovanni

Abrigo Giovanni, Dolcetto di Diano

 

4. Alta Langa (sparkling wine in the traditional method)

Producers: Contratto, Coppo

5. Place to try lots of wines: Banca del Vino

  • White grapes mentioned: Arneis, Cortese (Gavi), FAvroita (Vermentino), Timorasso, Nascetta, Erbaluce, Moscato
  • Red grapes mentioned: Freisa, Grignolino, Ruché, Brachetto, Albarossa, Pelaverga
  • Aromatized wines: Barolo Chianto, Vermouth

 

There is so much to explore - get out of just Barolo and Barbaresco and you'll open yourself to a totally different side of Piedmont.

_____________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


 Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Don't forget to go to the store page to see what wines I love with descriptions I have written. 

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

May 24, 2022
Ep 426: Giovanni Correggia of Matteo Correggia -His Exquisite Wines from Roero in Piedmont
01:03:58

Giovanni Correggia of Matteo Correggia. Photo ©Wine For Normal People

This podcast was extra special for me, as I was able to record live with Giovanni Correggia of Matteo Correggia in Roero, a part of the Piedmont in Italy that I love and that I try to champion as much as possible. I met Giovanni several years ago and loved his wines and his family story. This podcast is so many things all at once:

  • A great education on the Roero region, by the most famed producer there
  • The story of a grape that was reborn in this place
  • A lesson in the politics of the Piedmont and how some simple choices have brought fame to Barolo and Barbaresco and kept Roero down
  • A fascinating family story that includes a talented champion of Roero, horrible tragedy, triumph of a widow who had nothing to do with wine and her unbelievable strength of character and perseverance for the legacy of her kids, and the current generation (Giovanni) with its shining positivity, great vision and promise of a great future for the Correggia family and its wines.


I truly love the wines of Matteo Correggia and I believe that the Nebbiolos he makes  (just called Roero on the bottle) are the exact style of wine so many of us love – elegance, minerality, balance with none of the heaviness or the tannins that we sometimes get from Barolo. The Arneis, it goes without saying, is a white for the ages – a minerally, floral, saline wine with real gravity and the Barbera also has a lighter touch than some of the versions from over the river. Although hard to find, Giovanni’s Brachetto is as tasty as he will describe as well.

 

I have to say that in interviewing Giovanni and then in editing this show, I laughed and teared up many times. I felt indignant on his behalf, and also triumphant. I hope the conversation we had evokes the same emotions in you. If nothing else, it’s a great story and a great education on an underestimated region.

 

Here are the show notes:

  1. We discuss Roero, its location across from Barberesco and Barolo, and what that means for the climate of the area versus the other famed Nebbiolo areas of Piedmont


  2. Giovanni describes the soil types and how a small sea that once existed here, as well as the changing course of the Tanaro River, created a terroir with seashells, a canyon, and steep slopes covered in sandy soil that imbues the wines with a unique minerality that only exists in Roero


    Val dei Preti Vineyard, Matteo Correggia. Photo ©Wine For Normal People
  3. Once Roero was criticized for having multiple crops, but Giovanni talks about how this is now a distinct advantage


  4. Giovanni gives us a history lesson on Roero through his single vineyards on which he has great records: La Val dei Preti and Roche d’Ampsej and Marun. We discuss some of the modern history of Roero and some of its challenges


    Matteo Correggia wines. Photo ©Wine For Normal People

  5. We learn about the history of the Correggia family and of his father, Matteo, who started the winery in 1985 at age 23. We talk about Matteo’s early relationship with the founder of Slow Food, Carlo Petrini, and how that led to great opportunities for the winery and the philosophy around organics. Giovanni tells us about his father’s “membership” in the Barolo Boys as the only non-Barolo producer and how those relationships with Elio Altare and Roberto Voerzio were pivotal to early success


  6. Giovanni shares with us the tragedy around his father’s death and how his mother Ornella, brought the winery to new heights with great vision and the help of winemaker Luca Rostagno, and the Barolo Boys

  7. We talk about the wines and specific vineyards:
    • Giovanni talks about how different vineyards -- La Val dei Preti, Roche d’Ampsej, make different Nebbiolos and how they make wines that are more elegant, less tannic, and more aromatic and minerally than the Nebbiolo of the Langhe. We discuss the biggest problem for Roero, which is that Barolo and Barbaresco producers make excellent wines from the region and label them Langhe Nebbiolo or Nebbiolo d’Alba instead of Roero, thus keeping the region from being recognized
    • We discuss Correggia’s Barbera, and the funny story of the Marun vineyard. Giovanni gives me a great lesson on Barbera and its challenges in the vineyard
    • We discuss Brachetto, the special clone from Roero, and why it is such a unique grape that, when made dry, is great for summer drinking

Giovanni Correggia with Brachetto. Photo ©Wine For Normal People

  1. We wrap with a discussion of Matteo Correggia’s leadership on screw cap in the region, and a discussion of the challenges and opportunities for Roero, and how Arneis is just the beginning for this undervalued region

 

Definitely check out Giovanni’s wines – they are so inexpensive for what they are! Saratoga Wine in the states has almost the entire line, as does Tannico in the UK.

 

_________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


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If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

May 16, 2022
Ep 425: Cairanne of the Southern Côtes du Rhône with Jean-Etienne Alary of Domaine Alary
51:29

Cairanne is an 877 ha/2,167 acre appellation in the southern Rhône Valley that has been farmed since the time of the Greeks. It is not just a regular appellation, it is a cru of elevated status in the Côtes du Rhône. It doesn’t get the credit it deserves! After tasting much of it at a wine fair in the southern Rhône, I found it unbelievably delicious. A cru with acidity and a lighter profile but still so much character? YES.

And after speaking to a few of the other producers in the appellation, I found Jean-Etienne Alary and his father, Denis. Jean-Etienne has a worldly view, after spending time in Australia and New Zealand, and Domaine Alary's wines are some of the best Cairanne out there. Combining old techniques and newer ideas, Domaine Alary makes spectacular wines, with Jean-Etienne taking over the main winemaking duties from his father, Denis, who helped lead the charge to make Cairanne a Cru.


Photo: Denis and Jean-Etienne Alary. ©Wine For Normal People  

Here's a quick look at the topics we discuss in the show: 

1. Jean-Etienne gives us a full education on Cairanne. We cover:

  • Cairanne’s location and its proximity to places like Gigondas, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and Rasteau, as well as the Rhône River
  • The main grapes that are grown, typical blends of Cairanne, and how a small percentage of Cinsault, Counoise or Carignan can go a long way. We discuss the whites, which are a small but very important part of the wines of Cairanne
    • The three main types of terroir and what grows best on each
    • The climate and the strong Mistral effect, which helps keep disease off the grapes. We hit on climate change and drought, and what it means for certain grapes in the appellation
    • The elegance that defines Cairanne versus all other Cru of the south

 

2. Then we discuss the 11 generations of the Alary family, their history in Cairanne and their essential role in Cairanne

  • The Alarys have been involved in wine in Cairanne since 1692 and have farmed exclusively in this area since, surviving wars, phylloxera, mildews, to be what it is today
  • We discuss Denis Alary, Jean-Etienne’s father and how he started to make significant changes when he graduated from oenology school in the 80s. We talk about the age of the big wine critic and how the Rhône bent to the will of certain critics but has come back to its roots. discuss how Denis and the close-knit wine community of Cairanne fought to get the appellation to cru status for decades, finally achieving the goal in 2016. Finally, we cover how Denis moved Alary to a certified organic property in 2009, years before it became trendy!

 

3. We discuss the cru system and how, even though all cru are equal in the eyes of the law, they are not treated the same. Jean-Etienne talks about his aspirations to make Cairanne as well recognized as other cru

 

 

4. We discuss Jean-Etienne’s experiences in winemaking in Australia at Henschke and New Zealand at Seresin and the differences in how things get done in France vs the New World.

 

Photo: The Wines of Domaine Alary. ©Wine For Normal People

5. We talk about the wines of Alary:

  • The Cairanne from Alary, and the role of Carignan and how it can be made in a lighter, elegant style
  • The whites, although only 5% of the AOC, are 20% of Alary’s production and based on the Clairette grape, from which Alary makes stunning whites that are reminiscent of Sauvignon blanc.
  • Winemaking philosophy and the use of technology versus intuition
  • The future for Cairanne and for Alary

 

If you haven’t had a wine from  Cairanne, seek it out, especially the wines of Alary. These wines are elegant, drinkable, and fantastic with food!

____________________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


 Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Don't forget to go to the store page to see what wines I love with descriptions I have written. 

 

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

May 09, 2022
Ep 424: Using data to answer our most important questions about wine with David Morrison, PhD, of The Wine Gourd
48:09

David Morrison is a wine analyst and writer. He is an Australian living in Sweden. He has a PhD in plant biology, and that expertise led him to explore the wineries throughout Australia, learning about the high quality wines and vineyards there.

Picture: The Wine Gourd

He runs a blog called The Wine Gourd (winegourd.blogspot.com), which looks at wine from a totally different perspective – one that focuses on wine data. He seeks to take a more objective look at data, and he draws logical conclusions without an agenda, which means that most of his work provides new insights in wine that others can’t or won’t provide. Much of his work has to do with finding value for money in wine, the relevance of scores, and other major topics from which faulty conclusions are often drawn from data that is easily accessible.

 

This is a great show, should be eye opening and if you are a person who likes hard data to back up decisions, you will become an addict to the blog as I have.

Topics we cover are:

  1. How data is used and abused in the wine industry to forward agendas or opinions couched as fact

  2. Wine and health – from the article “Why we are never going to know whether wine is good for us or not”

 

  1. Whether or not biodynamic wines taste better than organic wines

 

  1. Critic scores and whether they have any meaning…

 

  1. Quantifying QPR (quality to price ratio) for yourself (four-part series)

Photo: Canva Professional

 

  1. How Global wine consumption has been declining for a long time

 

  1. Wine marketing and the wrong questions asked by the industry

 

  1. How Napa grapes are overpriced

 

  1. The future: wine recommendation engines

 

If you really want to go down the rabbit hole on these and many other topics: http://winegourd.blogspot.com Sign up for his email notifications from the blog – you’ll learn more from it about shopping for wine, selecting wine, etc. than from any other source.

 

___________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


 Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Don't forget to go to the store page to see what wines I love with descriptions I have written. 

 

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

May 03, 2022
Ep 423: Interesting things about the Rhône Valley that you won't read in books
59:35

This podcast was recorded after my trip to the Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône, a wine trade fair that I was invited to by Inter-Rhône. It was a wonderful learning experience and I stayed on for a few days afterwards to explore Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, St. Joseph, Crozes-Hermitage, and in the south, Beaumes de Venise with Claude Chabran of Rhonéa, Gigondas with Elisa Cheron from Familie Cheron of Domaine du Grand Montmirail, and a self-guided tour of vineyards in Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It was a fantastic trip and I am grateful to the people at Inter-Rhone for the opportunity.

Photo: Découvertes en Vallée du Rhône at Palais des Papes in Avignon, Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People

 

If you are curious about some of the people I mention as partners in crime in the show:

  • Matt Walls, Rhône expert, Decanter’s Rhône contributor, author of Wines of the Rhône
  • Adam Lechmere, editor of Club Oenologique and prominent wine writer
  • Elizabeth “Liz” Gabay, MW – Rosé goddess (and the world’s foremost rosé expert)
  • Jamie Goode of Wine Anorak and author or several books
  • Also, not mentioned by name (with apologies, but MC Ice had me thinking of Brits – these guys are fantastic), Kurtis Kolt, a great writer and consultant from Vancouver, Canada and Gurvinder Bhatia, Editor-in-Chief of Quench magazine

Photo: The Rhône in Bloom! by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People

 

  1. Côtes du Rhône percentages are PLANTINGS, not blend percentages in Côtes du Rhône wines. So if the requirement is 40% Grenache for a Côtes du Rhône, that is how much Grenache must be plantedin a vineyard for Côtes du Rhône, not how much has to be in the blend. Case in point: I had a 99% Syrah that was a Village wine.

 

  1. The producer is a big part of whether you like a wine or not, but you should still learn region before you learn producer. Producer can make or break your experience. It’s hard to learn but once you understand what the region has to offer, the next step is finding the producers you like.

Great producers: Familie Cheron of Domaine du Grand Montmirail, Gigondas

 

  1. About white grapes in rosé wine…it’s a-ok! I mentioned Elizabeth “Liz” Gabay, MW – goddess of pink wine and her son Ben. Look them up. White wines are allowed to be used in rosé as long as those grapes are fermented with the juice from red grapes. Whites Clairette, Picpoul, and Bouboulenc are used to lighten up one of my absolute favorite rosés, the Rhône cru, Tavel.

 

  1. Roussanne grows really well in the southern Rhône and there is more of it than ever before. The is distinctive when you taste it in a blend and there are more whites from Côtes du Rhône and the Villages planting and growing this awesome grape to make it a bigger part of blends. Check out the pod we did on this wonderful grape.

 

  1. Clairette is another a grape that no one talks about it but is awesome – acidic, refreshing, can be like Sauvignon Blanc, lighter style Rieslings, zippy, and green fruit notes. It is used in large proportions in Côtes du Rhône blanc from the south.

 

  1. Cairanne, the cru of the southern Rhône, is light on its feet and a completely different wine than the rest of the cru. Because of the larger proportion of Cinsault, the lighter soils, the Mistral wind, and the terroir, the wines have a lighter touch than many of the other southern Rhône cru. Cairanne makes pretty and elegant wine still with great fruit.

 

  1. An important point from the trip: Please STOP SENDING ME COMMENTS ABOUT MY FRENCH.Even when I tried to say names of regions and wines, I was not understood by folks in the Rhône or other parts of the south. It often took Google translate to communicate. If I tried to pronounce things in French it would have a terrible effect – neither French speakers nor English speakers would understand me and it would be futile. WFNP is an English language podcast and I need to pronounce things so that English language speakers (most of whom speak no French) understand what wines and regions I am saying so they can seek these wines out. After this trip, I will no longer be answering these comments and if you find that offensive, you can feel free to turn off the show. I’m sorry to see you go, but I’m no longer going to be apologetic for anglicizing French.

Photo: Dentelles du Montmirail in Gigondas, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People

 

  1. Gigondas is NOT a baby Châteauneuf-du-Pape, in my opinion. Some is very tannic and harsh, some is just beautiful but it is all about skill and terroir. The best producers aren’t trying to mimic Châteauneuf-du-Pape. They are their own expression of mainly Grenache in a hot, mistral effected areas of the Dentelles du Montmirail. Moulin de la Gardette and Domaine de Longue Toque are exquisite examples of terroir-driven Gigondas wines that are not trying to emulate Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Photo: Condrieu, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People

  1. Condrieu has a lot more to it than you may think.
    • First, it has two different parts, In the north where the wines are almost Sauvignon Blanc like – herbal, lime-like, lightly floral (jasmine) with higher acidity and a lighter body. In the south the wines are more like a traditional Viognier – peachy, sweet lemon, apricot notes with a fuller body but still with more acidity than New World Viognier
    • Condrieu has some rows of vines that, because of the undulation of the hills, face north or northeast. These north facing rows are not considered Condrieu and are declassified into IGP Viognier, according to Aurelien Chirat from Vignoble Chirat.
    • Finally, whole bunch fermentation can be used to add texture to wines but also to dilute or absorb alcohol. The stems have water in them that will dilute alcohol, they also can absorb some of the alcohol into their wood.

Aurelien Chirat of Vignoble Chirat in Condrieu

  1. Most winemakers use outside labs as required by the AOC laws. There is use of technology as a check on the health of the wine, but analysis is not a decision making tool unless there is a problem. This is a very different philosophical bent than the New World.


Photo, Côte Rôtie, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People 

  1. Two things on Côte Rôtie…
    • Despite what I have heard and read in recent times, Côte Rôtie has have Viognier in it – I didn’t find a producer who made a wine without at least a little. Most had 3-5% Viognier in their Syrah wine. The only wines that didn’t have Syrah were special old vine plots or from designated vineyards, from which the winemakers wanted to showcase the Syrah for that particular wine.
    • The plateau of Côte Rôtie has high quality, even though wine people malign it. I loved some of the wines from there – they are softer and easier to drink younger. Some of the wines smelled like manure and carnations – there are several theories as to why, which we discuss in the show.

 

Photo: Hermitage, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People 

  1. A few things on the very small appellation of Hermitage
    • Books say producers are permitted to blend in Marsanne and Roussanne into the Syrah. That is true, but there isn’t one producer who is doing that. The style is 100% Syrah and although that is for flavor, it’s also because producers need white grapes for the white wine of Hermitage, which represents 30% of what is grown and made.
    • If you haven’t had a white Hermitage, that should be your next investment! This is rare wine and it’s a bargain for how little there is in the world.

 

  1. Crozes-Hermitage has two parts around the base of the hill of Hermitage each makes different wine styles. The northern side is on uniform granite. This is the old part of the appellation before it was expanded many times into southern flatter areas after World War II. Crozes Hermitage makes 50% of all the wine of the northern Rhone and the flat, southern part is less expensive than any other part of the Rhone, so younger producers have a chance to move in and get established. This is a good thing, even if it means the wine can be variable.

Photo: St.Joseph, by Elizabeth Schneider, Wine For Normal People 

  1. St. Joseph is a tannic wine and it is not similar to Crozes-Hermitage, as many books will tell you.The appellation is varied, with many different types of granite (it really should be broken up into pieces). Although the wines from farther north are a little softer, I found them to be so harsh in tannin I could barely drink them. The verdict is out on if they will mellow with time, but to drink the young wine was nearly impossible for me. If you love harsh tannin, this is your wine.

 

  1. Châteauneuf-du-Pape is bigger than the entire northern Rhone combined. It is VERY varied in terroir, farming, and quality, so caveat emptor!

 

 

There are a million other little tidbits woven into this show. If you want to explore Rhône beyond study guides and generalizations, this show will get you far in understanding how different reality is from what may be published in books.

 

I hope you enjoy our “myth-busters, Rhône edition”!

___________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


Our sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on big names or boutique brands from all over the world at up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Apr 26, 2022
Ep 422: Old Vines Defined, with Langmeil Winery of Barossa, Australia
01:07:15
In this show, we finally define OLD VINES with James Lindner and Leigh Woodrow of Langmeil Vineyards! The background, the history, the viticulture, and the first major definition in form of the Barossa Old Vine Charter are all covered. If you ever wondered what "old vines" really means, we have answers! 

Langmeil Vineyards has a long and storied history. In 1843, Christian Auricht planted a mixed farm in the heart of the Barossa Valley in Australia. In 1932 Theodor Hanisch, Christian’s grandson established the first winery on the property and after a period of disrepair, in 1996, three men, who had strong roots in the Barossa - Richard Lindner, Carl Lindner and Chris Bitter - rejuvenated the vineyard and winery.

Photo: Langmeil The Freedom 1843 Vineyard, Shiraz

 

Today that same vineyard from 1843, The Freedom Vineyard, is still producing grapes for wine and Langmeil, although it makes other lovely wines from normal aged vines, has developed a specialty for caring for and making wine from old vine vineyards. Vineyards include the 70-year-old Orphan Block Vineyard These old vines wines are really something spectacular, and like nothing else you can taste.

Photo: James Lindner, co-owner, chief storyteller for Langmeil

In this show, I’m joined by James Lindner, sixth generation Barossan, and son of Richard Lindner, runs the family estate with his parents and brother, while overseeing its sales and distribution both domestically and around the world.  He tells us the story of how these old vines got here and the current state of old vines in Barossa.


Photo: Leigh Woodrow, Sales Manager for Langmeil, loyal listener and friend of the pod

Leigh Woodrow, long time podcast listener, WFNP supporter, Patron, and just all around smart and cool guy is the global and national sales manager for Langmeil and he adds color to the story of Langmeil, and its old vines. A Brit who has lived in Australian now for decades and has much experience in the wine industry, Leigh is humble, kind, funny, and such a great contributor to the Patron community so we need to give a big shout to one of our tribe for bringing this great show and topic to us (Patrons, we may get a bonus on a virtual video tour of the old vines, so stay tuned for that!).

 

The wines are available in the US and they are spectacular. And I learned a lot from this show about what LEGITIMATE old vines are versus what people may tell us they are.

 

I hope you enjoy the show as much as I did! And hi to Bette in the Cellar door at Langmeil!

 

Here are some of the topics we discussed:

 

  1. We learn about Barossa’s wine history, the history of the Australian wine industry, and how Langmeil’s old vines survived

Map: Barossa Australia

  1. We discuss the life cycle of a grapevine and how long they can live, along with what happens to vines as they age and how the wines they make taste. We discuss what grape varieties age well and what don’t and the conditions that make good vines

 

  1. James and Leigh talk about Langmeil’s Shiraz vineyard, the oldest Shiraz vineyard in the world – the Freedom 1843 vineyard. We discuss how farming and stewardship of it is different from younger vines.

 

  1. James talks about a massive project Langmeil undertook to transplant old vines in its Orphan Bank Shiraz Vineyard and how the community pulled together to help make it happen. Although this isn’t an ideal situation, it did help save a 70+ year old vineyard. We mention the old vine properties Langmeil has in Eden Valley, a part of Barossa, as well.

 

  1. James and Leigh describe the Old Vine Charter, why Barossa decided to create the Charter, and the definitions of Old Vines (35-plus years old), Survivor Vines (70-plus years old), Centenarian Vines (100-plus years old) and Ancestor Vines (125-plus years old). We discuss other regions in the world who are looking to Barossa as a model to put more definition around the term “Old Vines”

Photo from Cirillo Wine Estates, the oldest Grenache vineyard 

  1. We end with a good discussion of sustainability; how old vines are very sustainable for the environment and how investments in the community and the future of wine in Barossa mean that these old vines will have guardians for many generations to come.

 

A great show with terrific guests! And we finally get some definition around a very squishy term. Thanks to James and Leigh for sharing the Langmeil story!

 

_____________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

 

Apr 18, 2022
Ep 421: Alternatives to A Favorite - Cabernet Sauvignon
36:08

Inspired by a question from a Patron, we give you an original list of wines that are true alternatives to Cabernet if you love the OG and you want to branch out. We come up with 7 solid ideas that are similar but different enough to make them interesting.

 

The original idea for this list was from Patron Serl Z. and Leigh W. gets credit for naming this series.  People were so excited for these new ideas, we may just make it into a series!

We begin by discussing the main characteristics of Cabernet Sauvignon:

  • Flavors: Black fruit –especially blackcurrant, black cherry, black plum, blackberry -- earth in Old World versions, fruit in New World versions. The wine occasionally shows mint, eucalyptus, thyme, or green pepper notes. With oak Cab smells and tastes like tobacco, pencil shavings, cigar box, leather
  • Generally tannic with good acidity. Some can be age-worthy if they have good tannin structure and acidity (backbone)
  • Flavors depend on terroir, winemaking, oak aging

 

Alternatives:

  1. Mourvèdre/Monastrell/Mataro (Bandol in France, Monastrell from southern Spain, and GSM blends from the US and Australia) – dark fruit, intense flavor, long aging


  2. Douro Tinto/ Touriga Nacional (Portugal)– dusty tannins with sweet fruit, violets, leather, tobacco, big tannins


  3. Alentejo/Alentejano (Portugal) – for people who like juicy, fruity Cabs with soft tannins. These wines are a blend of Alfrocheiro, Alicante Bouschet, Aragonez, Castelão, Syrah, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, and, not surprisingly, Cabernet Sauvignon

  4. Sagrantino di Montefalco (Umbria, Italy)-- Sagrantino grape is full bodied, tannic with earth, cherry, smoke and sometimes spicy notes that evolve into leather and tobacco with time. Similar to Cabernet, Sagrantino is astringent in youth and mellows with time

  1. Malbec (Cahors, France, Argentina) -- Not all Malbec is created equal. If you want wines that are similar to Cabernet, choose Cahors, which is earthier, heavier, stronger, more tannic and often more terroir-driven. For Argentina, look for wines from sub-regions of Mendoza with older vines and elevation. These areas make wines with stronger tannin, darker fruit, and more acidity. They aren’t as plush as many Malbec. In the Luján de Cuyo valley of Mendozalook for Vistalba and Las Compuertas. In the Valle de Uco, Tunuyán, which includes Paraje Altamira and

 

  1. Petit Verdot (Virginia, Napa, and many other New World regions make varietal Petit Verdot, it’s native home is Bordeaux, where it is part of the Bordeaux blend). Although known for what it brings to the Bordeaux blend, varietal Petit Verdot can be a great Cab alternative. The grapes are thick skinned, and the wines have black fruit, herbs, spice, and dark flower notes. The wine has high acidity and tannins, making it a great sub.

 

  1. Tannat (Madiran, Uruguay, Virginia, Texas, Paso Robles and Santa Cruz Mountains in California other parts of the US. Also Argentina, Brazil, Australia). John S. – this one’s for you! Tannat is often blended with with Cabernet Sauvignon to tame its tannins! In Madiran the wine is far harsher than Cab but in Uruguay, it is more like blackberry, plum, dark raspberry, earth, and spice. It has soft tannins, high alcohol, and is pretty delicious. It resembles a lighter style Cabernet from the North Coast of Sonoma

 

  1. Cabernet Franc (on the list with lots of caveats so this is like a 7.5!). Cabernet Franc is the parent of Cabernet Sauvignon but it’s much earthier, tea-like, and has a lot of red fruit notes. It is nowhere near as tannic as Cabernet and its flavors are really different. Still, it’s not as soft as Merlot and because it can exhibit the herbs and pyrazine (green pepper) of Cabernet Sauvignon, I’m adding it to the list

 

At the end of the show I mention some cheat regions – good places to get blends with a healthy hit of Cabernet in them: Bordeaux, South African Bordeaux Blends, Hawkes Bay from New Zealand are three I mention!

 

Please let me know if you like this theme. If so, we’ll do more shows like this!

_____________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Apr 12, 2022
Ep 420: Denise Marrone of Agricola Gian Piero Marrone In Barolo
01:04:17

Denise Marrone comes from a long line of wine growers and winemakers in Barolo. Starting in 1910 when Pietro Marrone, at age 23, asked his father in if he could improve vineyard practices, the family has had a dedication to producing the highest quality grapes and wines  possible from the Langhe, specifically Barolo and Barbaresco.  The family’s legacy, dedication to the land, and their unbelievable hospitality at the winery in La Morra (you have to visit), is such a joy to learn about.

Denise Marrone, Courtesy of Marrone

Denise and her sisters run Marrone with their father, Gian, today. Denise is a fireball of energy, and her outlook on wine, her candor, and her genuine kindness make this show one of the best I’ve done! I hope you love her as much as I do!

 

Here are the show notes:

  • Denise tells us about her life in Barolo and a bit about her family’s history in the region, as well as about what life used to be like there, during her grandparents’ time

  • We discuss how young Barolo is as a region, and why it’s important to realize that although it has made wine for a long time, really Barolo is at the beginning of its journey versus regions like Chianti

    Marrone Barolo Bussia, Courtesy of Marrone

  • Denise gives us a full education on the terroir of Barolo, the most important thing behind the wine. FINALLY I get an excellent definition of the MGA (menzione geografica aggiuntive) system: a mapping of soil types that give some indication about the types of wines you may expect from that area. It’s very similar to the system in Burgundy, but without the cru classifications. Within this conversation with discuss the importance of things like exposure, altitude, position on a slope, wind, rain, and more

 

  • Denise talks about her various vineyards in Madonna di Como and her family rents land to farm in some of the MGAs to make their Barolo (her family prefers to do this versus buying grapes because then they have total control over the farming, which is mainly organic and all sustainable)

 

  • We hammer out the differences in Nebbiolos – Langhe, Nebbiolo d’Alba, Barolo, and Barbaresco – all of which Marrone makes masterfully. We talk truthfully about how some Langhe Nebbiolo and Nebbiolo d’Alba may be better than Barolo, even if it can’t get the same price for the wine.

 

  • Denise talks about her beautiful Barberas, finnicky Dolcettos (and I confirm, it IS an insider’s wine! I love it, I’m biased!), and Marrone’s expansive white wine selection. Marrone’s production is 40% white – Arneis, Chardonnay, and Favorita (Vermentino) – are excellent and their focus on whites shows in the wines. Denise talks a bit about the history of Arneis, specifically, and how difficult it was to make before there was good technology.

 

  • We discuss the role of women in Barolo, and how normal it has become for women like Denise and her sisters Serena and enologist/vigneron Valentina, to take the reins from their fathers today. Denise makes an incredibly astute point that now that technology has made work in the vineyards easier, men and women are much more on equal footing and it’s more a mind thing than a physical thing (BRILLIANT!!).

Denise Marrone, Courtesy of Marrone

  • Denise is the QUEEN of hospitality. Our conversation tries to do justice to how good it really is (but you have to go there to understand). Perhaps her last statement about always striving to do more and better explains it best – the attitude of a winery like that has one way to go – and that’s UP!!

 

You can find Marrone’s wines in the US, Canada, and the UK! They are wonderful, as is she!

_______________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:


Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $20 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Mar 28, 2022
Ep 419: The Grape Miniseries -- Roussanne
30:48

Although one of the most prestigious white grapes of the Rhône Valley, Roussanne is relatively unknown given its penchant for making aromatic, complex, full yet acidic wines. Often used as a blending partner with Marsanne or even with Syrah in its native northern Rhône, the grape shines alone in certain versions from Châteauneuf du Pape, California, Australia, and a handful of other places around the world. In this show we examine the majesty of this grape, which makes extraordinary wines that you should be drinking!

Photo credit: Roussanne - Geshem winery.jpg, CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Here are the show notes

  • Roussanne was named for “roux”, the French word for “russet” – which describes the grapes’ reddish golden color when they are fully ripe
  • Likely native to the northern Rhône, Roussanne is related to Marsanne, its blending partner for the famed northern Rhône whites in Hermitage, Crozes-Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph
  • Although it has verged on extinction a few times because it is so challenging in the vineyard, Roussanne continues to be an important part of whites (and reds) in the northern Rhône and elsewhere because few grapes can rival the combination of structure and aromatics

 

Roussanne Flavors

  • Roussanne has aromas and flavors of pear, honey, and herbal tea (Chamomile or lemon verbena). It can be like jasmine, iris, honeysuckle and other white flowers. The wine is distinctly minerally with green herb notes and some are more like apricot and peach
  • Roussanne is distinctive because it has a mouth-filling, oily, fuller body but always exhibits characteristic acidity. With age appears softer and shows nutty, marzipan, and creamy notes. The wine can age 15 or more years and still be excellent

Roussanne in the vineyard and cellar

  • Roussanne is a real challenge to grow – the people who make wine from it are often small producters who treat it as a passion project – demand for the wines isn’t high and growing it can be an exercise in frustration
  • Yields are irregular, ripening can be uneven, the grape is susceptible to mildew, rot and pests, and according to Tablas Creek in Paso Robles, California, who grows a large proportion of the grape in the United States, the grape can shut down as it is ripening, lose leaves and turn yellow, never to recover from this issue
  • The grape does well on poor, stony calcareous-clay soils that are well-drained but it can’t take wind or drought. Too much heat can cause the sugar to spike and make the resulting wine too alcoholic without balanced acidic. On the flip side, picking too early leads to excessively acidic wine that lacks balancing body
  • Roussanne needs a long, consistent season – it demands it to make the best wines
  • In the cellar, Roussanne is pretty easy going and versatile. It can make great wine when fermented in any type of vessel and with limited oak aging, its textures can be even smoother and the wines can be more complex

 

Roussanne regions...

France

Northern Rhône:

  • The native home of the grape, Roussanne is used as a blending partner with Marsanne in the whites of Hermtiage, Crozes Hermitage, and Saint-Joseph. It can also be blended into the reds (Syrah) of those areas but is usually a small percentage of those wines (no more than 10-15%), if used at all. Roussanne is also used in the still and sparkling wines of Saint-Péray. There is much more Marsanne than Roussanne planted in the northern Rhône because it is so much easier to grow, but Roussanne continues to play a big role in the wines because it is so high quality

Southern Rhône

  • Roussanne shines in Châteauneuf du Pape blanc. Marsanne is not permitted in the appellation, so Roussanne shines on its own or when blended with Grenache Blanc, Bourbolenc and other grapes. The most famous example of a pure Roussanne in the region is the white of Château de Beaucastel
  • Côtes du Rhône, Côtes du Rhône Villages whites, Costières de Nîmes, Luberon, Ventoux and many other appellations use Roussanne in blends

Other French areas

  • Roussanne is used in blends in the Languedoc and Roussillon, the Loire, and in Provence

 

Savoie

  • In this Alpine region the grape is called Bergeron and its wines are from the appellation Chignin Bergeron. The wine is peppery with fresh aroma of green mountain herbs, and although it has higher acidity and lower alcohol than other French versions, the wine still has excellent aroma and a soft, cheek-coating texture

Outside of France

  • Italy: Liguria, Toscana
  • Portugal: Alentejo
  • Canada
  • Israel
  • South Africa
  • Australia: Came to the continent in 1882 and is used in blends in both whites and reds

The US

  • Growing in Oregon, Texas, Virginia, Washington state (shows great potential)
  • In California: Came in the 1870s but it was hard to grow so acreage declined, and it wasn’t revived until the 1990s when Tablas Creek (a partnership with Château de Beaucastel, so clippings were easy to come by) and Alban propagated new cuttings of Roussanne. Today there are over 300 acres planted in California, mainly in the Central Coast, with some in Napa, Lodi, and some other spots.
  • Wineries producing Roussanne in blends or alone are: Alban Vineyards, Anglim Winery, Acquiescece in Lodi, Bonny Doon Winery, Cass Winery, Halter Ranch Vineyard, , JC Cellars, McCrea Cellars, Qupe, Stolpman Vineyards, Tablas Creek, Truchard Vineyard, Zaca Mesa

 

Credit to Tablas Creek for providing so much information on their blog. Links from their blog:

1. Tablas Creek blog: Grapes/Roussanne

2. Tablas Creek blog: A Symposium on Roussanne

 

Other Sources:

_____________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get a $20 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Mar 22, 2022
Ep 418: April Nalle and Whitney Hopkins on Making a Small Vineyard Eco-friendly
45:20

April Nalle from Nalle Winery, who make brilliant Zinfandel (also great Pinot noir, blends, Cabernet and more) in an old-school style, is a good friend with whom I speak often. April has had some really big moments lately, where she’s gone from just being concerned about climate change to being inspired to be a change agent. She’s at the beginning of her journey and I wanted to get her at this point to tell us how it all starts.

 

In this show we talk about how to make a vineyard more environmentally friendly, so we are joined by vigneron Whitney Hopkins of Hopkins River Ranch in the Russian River, who farms the land mainly organically . April and her husband Andrew Nalle buy Pinot Noir from Whitney and her father, who farm the ranch together.


Whitney Hopkins of Hopkins River Ranch, Left. April Nalle, of Nalle Winery, Right

 

This show should give you insight into where the wine industry needs to make improvements in the fight against climate change and where it’s already doing a pretty good job.

Warning: This is a dorky discussion!!!

 

Here are the notes:

  • April discusses a revelation moment she had after reading the book “Under the Sky We Make: How to Be Human in a Warming World” and why she feels it is so important to take bolder action in the wine world to help ameliorate the impacts of climate change. We discuss the lack of water in California and some of the impacts of that in farming.

 

  • We discuss the ways small wineries like Nalle and smaller vineyards like Hopkins River Ranch are already planet friendly:
  • April talks about Nalle’s living roof, dry farming, dust mulching, and how living where you farm makes a huge difference in how you treat the land.
  • Whitney discusses the use of organic products, using manual labor to avoid the use of pesticides and herbicides, and new innovations like electric mowers/tillers that get under vine rows without gas emissions.

The Nalle Family: 5 Generations of Farming. Photo courtesy of Nalle

 

  • We talk about why a small winery or vineyard often can’t afford the time or money it takes to go through and maintain an organic or biodynamic certification. Hopkins Ranch is farmed almost all organically but Whitney doesn’t have time to add certification paperwork to her workload. In addition, in areas with wet weather, it can be very hard to commit to only organic practices when doing so may mean that you lose an entire crop.

    Sustainability is a pyramid – social, economic, and environmental concerns are all part of it. Losing a crop could mean losing a business so flexibility with the goal of being as gentle as possible with your land has to be the way for many small wineries.

 

  • We get to the brass tacks: Whitney and April address the question of how much the vineyard really contributes environmental issues? It turns out that although refinement and changes need to continue – we need to use more electric vehicles in the vineyard and to drive around, to find products that can deal effectively and gently with vineyard hazards (mildew, mold, insects), and to continually adjust – the biggest ecological issues in wine are on the winery and sales side.

 

Hopkins Ranch, Russian River Valley, Photo courtesy of Nalle 

 

  • We talk about the list of things that April wants to do for now (it’s a wish list, again small wineries have fewer resources): use only refillable bottles for Nalle, change the labels, use electric vehicles for transport, do less tilling and more manual work in the vineyard, and add solar panels to the winery. Whitney discusses how water and drought are such issues that the Hopkins are working with the local government to tap into the recycled  water program.

Nalle's traditional label may need to change when refillable bottles are the norm

 

  • We wrap with some tips on how tell if a winery is giving you marketing BS about being green or whether they are the real deal.

 

Thanks to Whitney and April for their candor. I love that I got some answers on the impacts of the vineyard. As we turn our focus to the winery, we’ll make sure to track April’s changes in the winery at Nalle and tracks the outcomes of doing better for the planet.

____________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

 

Mar 15, 2022
Ep 417: Oregon's Willamette Valley -- A Discussion of My Trip
52:25

After a trip to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, M.C. Ice and I have a casual discussion on "What I learned on my school vacation" 😂 -- a  few details of the region, specifics on the wineries and sub-regions, and ultimately (apologies, but Oregon super fans won't want to hear this) my opinions on the challenges I have with the Pinot Noir of the region and how I feel that Chardonnay may be Willamette's best grape. 

View from Beaux Frères

Remember -- the show is based on my opinions with some facts (as I have always said, Wine For Normal People is not a study guide for an exam nor is it impartial. I offer facts but always with my spin or interpretation on it. If you don't like it, that's fine, but never has this show pretended to be a journalistic look at regions or a show that doesn't give my spin on things. In a show like this, it's especially important to remember that). 

View from a high point of the Dundee Hills

Regions mentioned:

 

Wineries mentioned:

The area is gorgeous, the people very kind, but ultimately not much has changed for me from the original Oregon podcast. I remain skeptical of the value for money that Oregon offers and the quality and consistency of the Pinot Noir. I have become a big fan of the Chardonnay of the area, and I think Gamay has a big future here but the region is still young and it has staked its entire reputation on Pinot Noir, so we'll see what happens in the years to come. 

 

One final shoutout to Caravan Coffee, for the best cup I've ever had in the US!! 

 

*All photos (C)Elizabeth Schneider

____________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

 

Mar 08, 2022
Ep 416: The History of Sicily... From the Wine Perspective
40:43

Sicily has a long history, and all of it is tied up with the evolution of wine and food in the Sicilian culture. In this show, we look at how this huge Mediterranean island played a major role in every major civilization from indigenous tribes to the current generation of young winemakers who seek to carve out a niche for Sicily and its unique wine culture.

Here’s a brief timeline of what we talk about: 

Sicilian Wine Timeline...

  • 10,000 years ago: Natural grapevines on Etna

  • Indigenous groups – Siculi, Socani, Elymi (Greeks who brought wine to Sicily)

Photo: Metropolitan Museum of Art

  • 8th – 3rd century BCE: Greeks arrived, introduced grapes and planted a lot of vineyards. They introduced pruning, varietal selection, bush training, and techniques to make great wine. Wine became an economic essential, as Sicily’s strategic position allows Greeks to export wine all over the Mediterranean. Inzolia, Zibibbo, Lucido/Catarratto were brought from Greece.


  • 3rd century BCE: Roman Republic wins control of Sicily over the Greeks. The Roman Empire reigns afterwards. During both eras, the Romans planted more grapes, refined viticulture and winemaking techniques and traded Sicilian wine throughout the Roman empire, enriching wine merchants on Sicily. Mamertino, Julius Caesar’s favorite wine was made in Sicily. Wine vessels from Sicily have been found in France and other parts of Europe.

Photo: National Gallery Open Access

  • 535 AD –826 AD: After the chaos that ensued after the fall of the Roman Empire, Byzantines conquered Sicily and used it as their base in the Mediterranean to take over other parts of Italy. The church revived viticulture and make wine for religious purposes and for trade around the Mediterranean.

 

  • 826 AD –1061 AD: Muslim rule -- not great for wine, as it is against the law to consume alcohol. Viticulture did not prosper, but it didn’t die. A few people still drank, and Z'bīb, Muscat of Alexandria, thrived as a table grape. The food and spices introduced during this time had a lasting impact on the cuisine of Sicily.

 

  • 1061 AD –1189 AD: The Normans, Christian descendants from Vikings conquered Sicily and brought wine back to the table in full force. The rulers expanded vineyards and wine became an economic mainstay for the Normans – they traded it and it was part of life for the aristocracy so Sicilian wine had status. Rather than throw out the influence, the Normans incorporated Arab spices and cooking in their food. Vermicelli (pasta) likely was made here in 1154 AD, 100 years before Marco Polo was born.

 

  • 1189 AD – 1266 AD: Norman rule ends and Henry VI of Swabia claims the throne.

 

  • 1266 AD: Pope Clement IV puts Charles, Count of Anjou and Provence, on the throne in Sicily but in 1282 a French soldier insults a Sicilian girl on her way into a church for Vesper services. This sparks the uprising called the Sicilian Vespers, ending French rule.

 

  • 1282: Peter II of Aragón (Spain) took control of Sicily. Wine was an important economic commondity as it was traded to northern winemaking areas to beef up their wines with color, flavor, and alcohol.

Photo: Wikipedia

  • 1400s-1500s: Guilds of wine merchants and growers flourished under the Aragón rule. Tomatoes, chocolate, squash, cactus, and other items were brought on Spanish ships from Mexico, revolutionizing the Sicilian cuisine.

 

  • 1700s: The House of Bourbon, a power family from Spain who ruled in Sicily, invested in local wine again.

 

  • 1773: John Woodhouse makes Marsala on the western side of the island, ships it out to England and the American colonies. Marsala was the first Italian wine to be exported America. Marsala was a major contributor to the Sicilian economy and to the islands prestige


Photo credit: Dedda71, CC-BY-SA-3.0

  • 1816: Naples and Sicily were united under the Aragón crown in the Kingdom of two Sicilies.

 

  • 1861: Giuseppe Garibaldi claims Sicily as part of the Italian Republic, ending Aragón rule. The Risorgimento, Italian unification, was not beneficial to Sicily. They found it difficult to integrate into continental Italy.  The economy suffered, and the first great emigration out of Sicily, occurred, spreading of the cuisine and wine traditions around the world – to America, Australia, the UK, and other places.

 

  • Late 1800s: Mass plantings of vineyards became necessary to supply Europe with wine in the wake of phylloxera. This was a prosperous time for wine in Sicily until phylloxera hit the island. Due to economic restrictions, poverty, and the level of destruction from phylloxera, Sicily took about 60 years to properly recover from the aphid.

 

  • 1950s: Sicily finally recovers from phylloxera. Vineyards mechanize, but in the post-World War II – global demand dropped for Sicilian wine.

 

  • 1960s and 1970s: Again, Sicilian wines exported to bulk wines up from northern areas. Sicily’s reputation for quality suffered.

 

  • 1980s –1990s: Some older families on the island planted international grapes to garner international attention from critics, and build a reputation for good wine. Consultants were hired, and Sicily gained global recognition for its wines made of Syrah, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and other international grapes.

  • 1990s – Native grapes were introduced to the world to a positive reception.

 

  • Today – the new generation is ready for smaller production and higher quality from native grapes, continuing the 3000+ year legacy of quality wine.

 

Don’t forget to check out the LIVE class on Thursday or watch it on my YouTube Channel if you can’t catch it live. Thank you to the Wines of Sicily DOC for the opportunity to offer this class for free!

 

 

___________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

 

_______________________________________________________________

Main Sources for the podcast:

https://cantinebarbera.it/en/cookie/47-myblog-marilena-barbera/154-history-of-sicilian-wine-culture.html

 

https://www.umass.edu/journal/sicilyprogram/sicilianfoodhistory.html

 

Others:

https://www.myguidesicily.com/usefulinfo/wines-of-sicily-and-their-history

https://www.britannica.com/place/Sicily

https://www.winemag.com/2019/04/16/beginners-guide-to-the-wines-of-sicily/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Sicily

Mar 01, 2022
Ep 415: Gianfranco Sorrentino of Il Gattopardo -- the famed restaurateur on the intrinsic and inseparable link between Italian food, wine, and tradition
56:36

To truly understand Italian wine, you have to understand its integral ties to Italian culture. In Italy, food and wine tell the story of a region’s cultural identity, history, and the character of its people. With my recent seminars on Sicilia (on YouTube if you missed them), and an impending trip to Piedmont with a group of Wine for Normal People listeners, the interplay of Italian wine, food, and culture has been top of mind. It was in this context that I invited the famed New York restaurateur, and Italian cultural advocate, Gianfranco Sorrentino, on the show.

 

Gianfranco is originally from Naples in southern Italy and after many years of managing restaurants all over Europe and Asia, he settled in New York. He learned the ropes, working for some of the most prestigious restaurants in Manhattan and then opening the first fine dining establishment in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).

 

He opened his first venture, Il Gattopardo, in New York in 2001 (a very difficult time to open!). In 2011, he opened The Leopard at des Artistes, his restaurant in the New York landmark Hotel des Artistes and, in 2014, Mozzarella e Vino opened directly across from MoMA.

 

 

Gianfranco is a passionate advocate of Italian food, wine and culture and he is also the founder of Gruppo Italiano (GI), an evolution from the original Gruppo Ristoranti Italiani (GRI), which was established in 1979. The group works to promote awareness of Italian wines, cuisine, and products and to help people in the US understand and appreciate the beauty of the Italian culture and its unbreakable tie to wine and food. Although he is based in the US, Gianfranco has a global view and everyone can learn  from the discussion Gianfranco and I have about the landscape of Italian food, wine, and culture, and the special importance of supporting small producers and keeping traditions alive.

 

 

All Gianfranco’s restaurants use authentic ingredients to that highlight the traditions of Italian culture and hospitality. The three are in Manhattan:

  • Il Gattopardo (ilgattopardonyc.com, 13-15 West 54th Street) serves traditional Southern Italian food with a contemporary twist. It is Gianfranco’s original restaurant and is award winning and a New York institution.

  • The Leopard at des Artistes (theleopardnyc.com, 1 West 67th Street) is in the famed Hotel des Artistes. The Leopard emphasizes food from “The Kingdom of the Two Sicilies’-- the regions of Campania, Basilicata, Calabria, Puglia, Sardinia, and Sicily. The dishes are a balance of rural elements from these regions and include pasta, vegetables, cheese, and fresh seafood.

  • Mozzarella & Vino (mozzarellaevino.com, 33 West 54th Street) is across from MoMA on 54th Street, is a more casual dining experience and, as the name suggests, ingredients focus on Mozzarella di bufala, and on wines from family estates and independent Italian winemakers.

Also, if you are interested, here is the book we discussed in the show, “The Leopard”

Grapes we discuss: Fiano, Greco di Tufo, Pallagrello Bianco, Piedirosso/Per'e Palummo, Aglianico

 

I hope the show gives you a new appreciation for how wine and food are more than just nutrition and libation for Italians!

___________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Feb 22, 2022
Ep 414: The Refillable Wine Bottle Revolution to Combat Climate Change with Caren McNamara of Conscious Container
43:35

Caren McNamara founded Conscious Container in 2017 to bring the refillable glass bottle marketplace to the wine industry (pre-WWII, we re-used most packaging. Other countries kept doing it, but in the US that stopped). The goal: reduce single use packaging waste and turn glass bottles into multi-use vessels by setting up an infrastructure for collection, cleaning, inspection, and re-use.

Caren was a project and change management manager for a major tech company but she left that behind when she saw a hole in the marketplace for refillable and reusable glass, and the opportunity to make a big impact on the beverage industry.

 

In the show we talk about we talk about how we wound up throwing away assets like glass, rather than re-using them, and how things like lightweight packages (reduce) and recycling are less effective than the third “r” – reuse - which is usually the most efficient of the three.

 

Caren discusses the opportunities for Conscious Container to do good, what it will take for her operation to become full-scale, and offers ideas of things we can do to help Conscious Container’s mission, like asking at tasting rooms about refillable bottle programs, requesting that wine clubs look into using refillable bottles, and keeping up to date on new developments which would allow us to participate in the re-use economy.

 

Shout out to April Nalle of Nalle Winery for being an innovator,  using this program and for introducing me to Caren and all the cool stuff she's doing! 

 

Here are some links to things Caren mentions in the show:

 

 

  • ReLoop 'Reusables vs Single-Use Packaging.  A combination of 32 Life Cycle Assessments on the topic with a clear "win" for refillable glass bottles, Caren used these numbers in the podcast

 

 

 

 

Go to Conscious Container to learn more.

_______________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Feb 15, 2022
Ep 413: Sicily and the Sicilia DOC with Alberto Tasca of Tasca d'Almerita
01:01:38

In this episode, Alberto Tasca d'Almerita, part of the 8th generation of the Tasca d’Almerita family, the CEO of Tasca d’Almerita winery, and one of the directors of the Sicilia DOC joins the show.

This is an excellent complement to the Wines of Sicily class (part 1 now on the YouTube Channel!).

Photo: Courtesy of Tasca d'Almerita

The Tasca d’Almerita family got into wine in the 1830s with the purchase of Tenuta Regaleali in the center of Sicily, with a range of altitudes that rise up to nearly 3000 ft/900 m, a variety of exposures, mixed soils, and elevations. The varied terrior and strong diurnals means that so many grapes grow well here – the winery grows 25 red and white varietals and the wines are fresh, fruity and honor the Sicilian tradition.

 

In the early 2000s, Alberto took over the business side of Tasca d’Almerita. He shook things up and modernized the winery, improving the wines but staying true to tradition. Alberto grew the winery to four other Sicilian winegrowing regions: Tenuta Capofaro on the Aeolian island of Salina; Tenuta Tascante on Mt. Etna; Tenuta Whitaker on the Phoenician island of Mozia; and Tenuta Sallier de La Tour in the DOC Monreale. To say that Alberto understands the ins and outs of Sicily and what it has to give is an understatement.

Photo: Courtesy of Sicilia DOC

I found that one of the most altruistic and interesting things about Alberto Tasca d’Almerita, is that he doesn’t only focus on his own business. He helped create SOStain – a sustainability registry for Sicilian viticulture created in 2010 and in concordance with VIVA (sustainability in Italian viticulture) – which allows measurement and certification of sustainability initiatives through rigorous scientific indicators to protect the land for future generations. He is a director of the Consorzio di Tutela Vini Doc Sicilia, which promotes Sicilian wine, its area of production and takes an active role in the winemaking and growing of its members, sharing best practices and trying to improve Sicilian wine.
 He gives back to the wine community of Sicily.

 

He joins the show to talk about his own business but mainly as a director of the Sicilia DOC.  

In the show we cover:

  • Alberto Tasca d’Almerita's  family history in Sicily
  • The cultural differences and similarities of Sicily and mainland Italy.
  • The close connection between Sicilians and Sicilian Americans
  • Alberto gives us an overview of the entire terrain of Sicily – its climate, various terrains, and how incredibly diverse this huge island really is.
  • We discuss the variety of grapes here, focusing on the indigenous grapes of Sicily like Lucido, Nero d’Avola, Perricone and others
  • Alberto tells us about his role in starting the SOStain Sicilia Foundation and about the importance of real sustainability in wine
  • We discuss the Sicilia DOC – why it was formed, the goals of the appellation, and why it is so important to the future of Sicilian wine.

Photo: Courtesy of Tasca d'Almerita


For more information, visit the winesofsicily.com and https://www.tascadalmerita.it/en/ and don't forget to watch the Wines of Sicily Part 1 Class on YouTube!

 

_______________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

 

Feb 07, 2022
Ep 412: Valpolicella and Amarone Refresher (per M.C. Ice's request)
53:32

Valpolicella is a famed red wine region in the foothills north of the city of Verona. This area has been making wine since the time of the Ancient Greeks, whose legacy is kept alive by the common practice drying grapes to concentrate the flavors in the finished wines.

Photo: Valpolicella, from Unsplash

We covered this with Filippo Bartolotta in episode 317, but after a conversation with M.C. Ice it became clear to me that he needed to hear the info again. It's an important wine region and it's complex, so we decided to do our version and get anyone up to speed who may also still be a little confounded about these wines! 

 

There is much to uncover about this region, the “Valley of Many Cellars”, as it translates. The huge area makes so much wine under so many different sub-regions and areas, but not all are created equally. Even the famed and rather new wine, Amarone della Valpolicella, which has enjoyed enormous popularity in the last 20 years, isn’t all amazing. In this show, we will take you on the full tour of the region – examining what is here, the essential components of terroir, and how to get the wines you like from this multi-faceted, diverse, and very confusing Italian region.

 

Here are the show notes:

We give an overview of the region:

  • Valpolicella borders Lake Garda/Bardolino to the west, abuts the Lessini Mountains (part of Venetian Pre-Alps) in the north, and opens to a wide valley in the east.
  • The historical area of Valpolicella winemaking is in the Monti Lessini hills but the area is much bigger due to an enlargement in 1968

 

Climate

  • Because the region spans so much land, the climate varies depending on the valley. In general it is a mild to cool continental or sub-continental region but hillsides are markedly cooler than lowland areas, and valleys, where the air is more stagnant are far hotter than those at elevation that experience breezes from the PreAlps. Lake Garda keeps the western region cool in the summer and warm in the winter, as you move away from the water towards the east, that is not the case. The winds from the southern, humid Sirocco to the Föhn, a dry northern wind, to those from cold humid ones the northeast all affect particular vineyard sites as well.

 

Geography

  • In general, you will find vineyards in three big areas: mountainous limestone foothills, at elevation in the Lessini Mountains (the Classico region), hill areas on gentle slopes (th majority of vines planted) with limestone and volcanic soils, and the fertile, alluvial, eastern valley floor.

Photo: Corvina, from Conzorzio Valpolicella 

 

 

Grapes

Three main grapes are used with some supporting players

  • Corvina Veronese (Corvina, Cruina) is the backbone of the blends, providing structure, aromas of cherry and red berry, with flowers and baking spice, and softness. It must be 45-90% of the blend
  • Corvinone an unrelated grape with a similar name, provides black cherry, spice, color, tannin, acidity, and elegance to the blend. Corvinone can replace Corvina up to 50% of the blend
  • Rondinella is a vineyard champ – it’s very disease resistant and and its contribution is ripe red fruit, tobacco, and spice notes. It can be 5-30% of the blend

 

 

OTHERS…can be 25% of the blend, but no more than 10% per grape variety

  • Molinara: Used to be a mandatory part of the blend, but producers often find it too aromatic and savory, and its lack of structure has made it fall out of favor.
  • Oseleta: Is the new darling of Amarone especially. It dark skin and strong tannin with blueberry, black cherry, minerals, and herb notes. It is powerful and a little goes a long way. The plantings are small but growing
  • Others that are permitted and used for hardiness, color, and body are Croatina, Dindarella, and Spigamonti

 

Every producer makes the decision about what is best within the allowable parameters

Photo: Valpolicella, from Conzorzio Valpolicella 

Valpolicella Production Regions

  • The production regulations divide the Valpolicella into three distinct zones. Classico was the OG. In 1968 grew to include Valpantena valley near the river, and Valpolicella Orientale – Eastern Valpolicella.
  • The DOCs can have Superiore as a distinction if they age the wine for 1 year and have 1% more alcohol than the normale.

 

Valpolicella DOC -

  • In eastern Valpolicella (Orientale), the area reaches north into the hills above Verona for approximately ten miles, and east to west for 20 miles. The area is varied,so the wines can be simple when grown on fertile soils or interesting at a bit of altitude with cooling breezes, rocky soils.

 

Valpolicella Subzone 1: Classico

  • Located in the west near Lake Garda, Classico consists of five high quality areas that make up the traditional places where grapes had been cultivated for Valpolicella before 1968 enlargement. About 30% of Valpolicella from here and the better terroir yields bolder, riper wines with a fuller body and more tannin. The five areas of Classico are Sant’Ambrogio di Valpolicella, Negrar Valley, San Pietro in Cariano, Fumane Valley, Marano Valley,

 

 

Valpolicella Subzone 2: The Valpantena

  • Located in the central part of Valpolicella, halfway between the Valpolicella Classica and the eastern zone, this area is located in a narrow valley that has big diurnal swings leading to long ripening periods and very good wines with lovely acidity. These are considered nearly as good or as good as Classico. 20% of Valpolicella is grown here

 

 

Wine Styles: DOC/G

***It’s important to note that all the DOC and DOCG wines can be from the Classico, Valpantena OR standard Valpolicella (indication of the growing ZONE) zones and will indicate that on the label

 

The DOC/Gs are:

  • Valpolicella DOC
  • Valpolicella Ripasso DOC
  • Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG
  • Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG

 

Valpolicella DOC

These wines are dry reds with red berry, sour cherry, cinnamon, and pepper notes. They are unoaked, simple wines with light color and high acidity. They have no aging requirements and are often good with a slight chill in the summer. Other versions:

  • Valpolicella Superiore DOC – wine has been aged 1 year, and has 12% v 11% ABV. It has more flavor and body
  • Also: Valpolicella Classico, Valpolicella Classico Superiore, Valpolicella Valpantena, Valpolicella Valpantena Superiore are permitted to be used and fall under the DOC.

  
Photo: Appassimento -- drying grapes, courtesy Conzorzio Valpolicella 

Recioto della Valpolicella DOCG

  • This is a sweet red wine made from dried (passito) grapes. It is the original, historic wine of the region – the Greeks brought the production method to these parts. The name comes from recie, which in the local dialet means ears – which is what the top of a grape cluster looks like.
  • The wines are made in the appassamento method where producers dry grapes in indoor warehouses called Fruttai, and use the half-raisined berries to make high alcohol (14.5% - 15.5% ABV), full bodied sweet wines. These wines are aged for at least 2 years before release. They can be Classico and Valpantena as well

Amarone della Valpolicella DOCG

  • Made just like Recioto, only fermented nearly dry after a very long fermentation, these wines have strong red berry, prune, raisin, cinnamon, chocolate, and tobacco notes. Because the sugar of the dessicated grapes is so high these wines must be at least 14% ABV, can be 15.5% or more. They must age for 2 years in any vessel before release, except in the case of Riserva, where the requirement is 4 years.
  • These wines are made in all three zones, although Classico is considered best.

 

 

Valpolicella Ripasso DOC

  • The ultimate sustainability solution, ripasso means re-passed, and in this case rather than discarding the pomace from Amarone and Recioto, up to 15% Amarone lees and grape skins are added to basic Valpolicella during fermentation. This kicks off a second 10-15 day fermentation that boosts tannin, alcohol, fruit flavor, and glycerine in the wine. It gives more candied, jam notes, a higher alcohol level and if aged in oak, flavors like mocha, spice, and leather.
  • These wines can be made in all zones, e.g., Valpolicella Valpantena Ripasso, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico, Valpolicella Ripasso Classico Superiore

_______________________________________________________________

Thanks to our sponsors this week:

Our new sponsor: Wine Spies!

Wine Spies uncovers incredible wines at unreal prices - on Zinfandel, Barolo, Champagne...you name it - up to 75% off! It’s not a club and there’s no obligation to buy. They have a build-a-case option, so you can mix and match wines while enjoying free shipping on every purchase. Visit www.winespies.com/normal you’ll get $10 credit to use on your first order! Check them out today!

 

If you think our podcast is worth the price of a bottle or two of wine a year, please become a member of Patreon... you'll get even more great content, live interactions and classes! 

www.patreon.com/winefornormalpeople

 

To register for an AWESOME, LIVE WFNP class with Elizabeth go to: www.winefornormalpeople.com/classes

Sources:

Jan 31, 2022
Ep 411: The Grape Miniseries -- Dolcetto
51:09

This week we explore the "other, other" red grape of the Piedmont (after Nebbiolo and Barbera) -- Dolcetto. This grape can be a challenge in the vineyard and in the cellar, but it is capable of producing some of the most satisfying, tasty, and unique wines you can have.